ON-SONG Hibs tightened their grip on second spot in the Championship as they notched their seventh consecutive victory in all competitions away to struggling Cowdenbeath.
Scorers: Hibernian - Fyvie 32; Cummings 34
For a side who started the campaign riddled with uncertainties, Hibs are in danger of being labelled predictable, such is the near metronomic consistency with which they are reeling off victories these days.
On an afternoon on which they might have been concerned that Rangers would be bearing down on them from the appointment of Stuart McCall, and the challenge presented by a distinctly awkward playing surface at Central Park, they simply notched up another win with the minimum of fuss and ended up extending their points advantage over Rangers ahead of their crucial meeting at Easter Road next weekend.
A two-goal burst in the space of three minutes midway through the first half was enough to see Alan Stubbs’ men over the line make it and seven wins on the trot.
While it was a far from enthralling spectacle, the Hibs head coach was delighted by his player’s professionalism. “It’s unique for what it is here, and it’s never easy for any team to win at this ground – we’ve just gone and done it again,” he said. “I told the players that we just had to keep doing the right things and the goals would come.”
Stubbs was keen not to overplay the significance of Rangers dropping more points. “We got three points today, that’s the most important thing. Every time we do that we make it more difficult for people to catch us.”
In the opening half hour it looked as though this would be anything but a routine win for Stubbs’ men. Having seemingly discovered how to shut the trapdoor against
Rangers after their ten-goal humiliation at the hands of Hearts,
Cowdenbeath set out to replicate the exercise. Hibs were flummoxed for a while, enjoying plenty of possession but barely getting anything approaching a genuine effort on goal.
Then it all suddenly fell into place, albeit thanks to the home defence momentarily dropping their guard and allowing David Gray simply too much time and space down the right flank. Not for the first time this season the full-back was the catalyst in making a breakthrough, feeding the ball to Fraser Fyvie who swept it home from just inside the box.
Just a couple of minutes later and the home team gifted another goal. A back pass hit from well upfield from Colin Marshall put goalkeeper Robbie Thomson in difficulty, and left Jason Cummings with the simplest of tasks to prod it into the net from barely a yard out. “It’s one of those weird ones,” said Stubbs, “but I’m not going to complain about it.”
This sudden two-goal cushion did not radically alter the pattern of play both up to and beyond the interval but it did immediately stem any sense of anxiety that might have been beginning to take root in the minds of the Hibs players. They continued to dominate but could now afford to switch the ball about and probe away with an air of calm assurance.
Cowdenbeath meanwhile did a decent enough job of regrouping after their catastrophic loss of concentration earlier on, despite their cause hardly being helped by early second-half injuries to Dean Brett and Sean Higgins. They were simply unable to conjure up any kind of goal threat however.
With Hibs in cruise control after the break the closing 45 minutes were a decided non-event.
“I thought we shot ourselves in the foot,” Cowdenbeath manager Jimmy Nicholl insisted after the final whistle.
“There’s some comfort in our second-half performance though as we might have crumbled in the same situation in the past.”
Cowdenbeath: Thomson; Brownlie (J Robertson 46), Armstrong, Wedderburn, Adamson; Brett (Toshney 50), O’Brien, Marshall, Milne; Oyenuga, Higgins (Johnston 58).
Hibernian: Oxley; Gray, Watson, Fontaine, Stevenson; Allan (Forster 88), McGeouch, Fyvie, Robertson; Dja Djedje (Staton 86), Cummings (Boyle 46).
Referee: E Robertson. Attendance: 1,822.
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