At ONE stage, Hibernian were in serious need of a professional party-planner. After previous attempts to celebrate notable events with a victory had fallen flat, they looked like they might mark Pat Stanton’s 70th birthday with another defeat.
Scorers: Hibernian - Forster 25; Malonga pen 77; Cummings 90; Cowdenbeath - Higgins 50; Robertson 56
But they finally remembered their lines to beat Cowdenbeath, substitute Jason Cummings scoring the winner in the 94th minute.
They dared not have flunked this one. Quite apart from the Hibee immortal they were honouring, these would-be promotion contenders were heading for bottom spot in the Championship if they hadn’t managed to avert a fourth straight defeat. Previous parties which had flopped, both official and unofficial, included the fans’ balloon-waving expectancy last season of Hibs relegating Hearts. That didn’t happen. And further back there were the planned festivities for the 2007 League Cup triumph, also pooped by the Jambos.
Manager Alan Stubbs admitted: “At 2-1 I was wanting Pat Stanton on the pitch. I thought I must have run over a black cat earlier in the day because everything seemed to be going against us. We’d been controlling the game and then came ten minutes of pandemonium. We need to defend better. There must be 500 appearances in that back line. We need to stop giving away silly, stupid goals. But saying that the lads showed great spirit to come back.”
Stanton got to lead out the teams. A stellar XI were already there to meet him, including John Brownlie, Eric Stevenson and Jackie McNamara. There was a minute’s applause in memory of Barcelona ’61 hero Bobby Kinloch and then the old-timers departed.
Hibs had a lot of the ball in the opening quarter but with Cowdenbeath keeping everyone back bar Callum Gallagher and with space at an absolute premium there was a tendency to rush things. The anxiety was understandable. A fortnight ago Hibs had given Alloa Athletic their first victory over them for 94 years. They didn’t really want to follow that by handing Cowdenbeath their first since 1930.
And then Hibs scored. Matthew Kennedy had drifted to the right in search of some room. His cross was met by Jordan Forster and there was no other word for it: the defender’s bulleted header was Stantonesque. Would this bring the Blue Brazil out? Hardly. From a corner, Kudus Oyenuga dropped the gentlest of headers – the polar opposite of Forster’s – on to the crossbar. The goal should have settled Hibs but it didn’t really. Stanton’s Hibees weren’t always Tornadoes. This performance – pretty, but also pretty ineffectual – was more reminiscent of the years before Eddie Turnbull’s revolution, when Hibs last met Cowdenbeath on league business (a 2-2 draw in 1971).
One-nil isn’t much of a lead and so it proved. Five minutes after the restart, a Jon Robertson cross from the left was zipped home by Sean Higgins. Two minutes later after a defensive mix-up the same player scudded the bar. What little swagger Hibs had shown up until that point disappeared and when Paul Hanlon in his box headed straight up in the air, Robertson put the Fifers ahead, to the delight of their fans.
The boos rang out and Stubbs rang the changes. Scott Allan was replaced by Dominique Malonga, the Paris-born Congo striker from Serie A. Another new boy, Jake Sinclair, joined the action just in time for the 70th minute when the forlorn faithful remembered the birthday boy and burst into applause. You half-wondered though if Paddy hadn’t already slipped off home.
Playing more directly, Hibs equalised through a Malonga penalty after Robertson had hauled down Forster. Referee John McKendrick initially waved away the appeals then changed his mind.
The winner didn’t look like it was going to come. For a split-second after another hopeful ball was chucked into the box everyone seemed to freeze – apart from Cummings. “It was like slo-mo,” said the striker. “I think the ball bounced off big Malonga’s back. It was my weaker foot and I didn’t hit it clean but I had a feeling I’d score today.”
That was hard on Cowdenbeath. “At half time we changed things, played with more confidence, scored a good goal and I don’t know what happened for our second,” said their manager Jimmy Nicholl. “Then came the penalty. Jon says he didn’t pull him; he did. We lost the head, knocked off, lost concentration. But there were some positives in there for us today.”
For Hibs – just, kind of – too.