Blackpool 2 - 0 Hibernian: Youthful Hibs side fail to fire

A LACK of cutting edge was once again evident as a young Hibs side suffered defeat against Championship side Blackpool last night.

After going down to Elliott Grandin's first-half strike and Billy Clarke's late second, the Easter Road outfit will now be hoping the paperwork for Junior Agogo can be put in place ahead of their second league outing of the campaign this weekend at Inverness, where they have never won in their previous nine visits.

Last year these sides faced each other with a former Rangers midfielder pulling the strings for Blackpool. Twelve months on, it was the same scenario, but with Barry Ferguson, secured last week from Birmingham City, replacing Charlie Adam as playmaker and captain since the latter's 8 million departure to Liverpool.

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There was also further Scottish interest in the home ranks with the appearance in the starting line-up of internationlists Stephen Crainey and Matt Gilks, and in the inclusion of Bob Harris, who was recently recruited from Queen of the South, and former Hearts youngster Stephen Husband among the substitutes.

That Scots quintet could yet be supplemented by the arrival of David Goodwillie after reports linked the Seasiders with an imminent bid for the Dundee United striker.

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Last summer, John Hughes' Hibs side triumphed 2-1 with a winner from Liam Miller but that success against a side on their way to the English Premier League proved to be a false dawn. The Easter Road outfit will be similarly hopeful that Sunday's disappointing opening 2-0 defeat to Celtic and this defeat are false indicators as to what lies ahead in this campaign.

Manager Colin Calderwood, mindful of the long journey north to Inverness on Saturday, started with a much-changed team and rested winger Ivan Sproule, nursing a shin knock, and Garry O'Connor, the club's only fit striker.

Martin Scott was tasked with supporting youngster David Crawford up front and goalkeeper Mark Brown was handed an opportunity to impress following Graham Stack's costly mistake against Celtic, with Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon the only survivors from the weekend.

Despite a lively opening from both sides there was a distinct lack of goalmouth opportunities until the 15th minute when Kevin Phillips, signed from Birmingham this summer, skied his volley from Brett Ormerod's cross well over. Phillips came closer six minutes later but his powerful shot from Gary Taylor-Fletcher's cut-back slipped narrowly over the bar.

Hibs suffered a blow just after the half-hour mark when Scott had to go off with a shin knock sustained in a hefty challenge with Craig Cathcart.

Then, in the 33rd minute, Hibs went behind. Crainey popped up on the left wing and, when Grandin hit his volley into the ground, the wrong-footed Brown could only watch the ball bounce into the net.

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Things almost got worse for the Edinburgh side three minutes later but Brown saved first from Taylor-Fletcher's header and then from a stinging Phillips drive. Hibs waited until the hour mark to make the usual raft of friendly substitutions, bringing on the likes of Victor Palsson, Matt Thornhill and Callum Booth, and shortly after this they registered the first real effort at goal their fans were ironically calling for as young replacement David Crawford screwed his shot well wide.

With more of their first-team players on midway through the second half, Hibs began to look like they would threaten more as time wore on.

However, it was Blackpool, the more comfortable throughout, who were assured of their first victory of the summer with five minutes remaining when substitute Clarke turned unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box before beating Brown.

The keeper was then forced to deny Phillips a third as teenager David Gold was robbed 30 yards out.

Blackpool: Gilks; Baptiste, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey; Grandin, Ferguson, Southern; Taylor-Fletcher, Phillips, Ormerod. Subs: Hill, Sutherland, Silvestre, Clarke, Halstead, Bruna, Harris, Bignot, Eastham, Husband, Djordic, Eardley.

Hibs: Hart, Stephens (Murray 79), Hanlon (Palsson 59), Smith (Booth 59); Taggart (Wotherspoon), de Graaf (Gold 79), Scott (Horner 32), Stevenson (Thornhill 59), Galbraith (Handling 79); Crawford (Caldwell 59). Subs not used: Stack.

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