RABBIE BURNS died so football writers could quote his verse every time a match takes place close to his birthday in the town where he spent his final days. Hibernian were cowerin’ and tim’rous in the first half of this one but sorted themselves out after that.
Queen of the South - 0
Hibernian - 2
McGeouch 63 pen; Robertson 75
Dylan McGeouch, with a penalty, and Scott Robertson ended a sequence of dismal results on plastic pitches following defeats at Alloa, Falkirk and Palmerston. “I had a pop at them at the interval,” manager Alan Stubbs revealed. “We didn’t get control of the game and we were sloppy. But after that I thought we dictated the play, got into better positions and won the second balls.”
A good day, the coach said, and then it got better when he was told of Hearts’ first defeat of the season. “I didn’t know that. That’s a good result for Falkirk and an even better one for us.”
Both Hibs and Queens had recently beaten Rangers, only to stutter in the next match. If they’d been so minded they could have used this encounter as a fact-sharing exercise, pooling resources on how to perform more consistently. But there was nothing polite about Iain Russell’s thumping half-volley in the fourth minute. He connected perfectly with an Ian McShane corner on the edge of his box, only for his shot to come back off one of the Hibs posts.
Most of Queens’ goals this season have come from Russell, Derek Lyle and Gavin Reilly – each is on 11 – but McShane fancied his chances with a drive which went close. The latter had been bright in the midfield along with Mark Millar. Liam Craig and Scott Robertson, by contrast, had been leaden-footed, although this pair were involved in a scary moment for James Atkinson when the Queens keeper dropped a high-spinning deflected shot. This was the Leith team’s only meaningful contribution to the first quarter.
Wearing black armbands in honour of their former chairman Dougie Cromb, who died last week, Hibs’ attacks were breaking down under little pressure. Their build-up play was ponderous and on the half-hour McShane produced another good delivery from a free-kick which found Kevin Holt and the defender’s header fizzed wide.
But late on in the half, Hibs somehow managed to carve out three chances. They ranged from the good (a Liam Fontaine header cleared off the line by the ubiquitous McShane) to the indifferent (Martin Boyle’s low shot from long range) to the bad (a horrible shot high over the bar from Craig after decent lead-up play from Scott Allan and Jason Cummings). The previous night Britain’s most expensive player, Angel di Maria, had fired the ball right out of the ground at Cambridge United. At least Craig’s shot didn’t leave Palmerston but a goal for Hibs at that stage would have been flattering.
The second half began with Robertson trying to muscle his way into the action, although Hibs had to survive a penalty shout against Paul Hanlon before Cummings – trying too hard to keep his goal run going – muffed his shot after an exquisite lobbed pass from Allan.
McGeouch, invisible in the first half, was next to up his game, and he would make the breakthrough from the spot after Allan had slipped another lovely ball into Cummings’ path, with Atkinson bringing down the striker. “James was caught in two minds and got a nick of their player,” Queens manager James Fowler said.
Allan and McGeouch then decided to run the show, and a few minutes later carved Queens open down the right to set up Cummings, whose effort was blocked. At last the rhythm had returned to Hibs’ play and a fine passing sequence was rounded off by Robertson with a crisply struck right-footer from the edge of the box.
“I didn’t think there was too much in the game but obviously the penalty changed things,” said Fowler. “We’ve fallen out of the top four. The lads are disappointed but they’ve done great so far. We know where we want to be come the end of the season.”
Queen of the South: Atkinson, Kidd, Dowie, Higgins, Holt, McShane (Pickard, 82), Carmichael, Russell, Millar (Burns, 77), Lyle (Paton, 71), Reilly.
Hibernian: Oxley, Stevenson, Fontaine, Hanlon, Booth Allan (Stanton, 82), Robertson, Craig, McGeouch, Cummings (Handling 90+2), Boyle (Forster, 85).
Referee: C Murray. Attendance: 3,677.