Blackpool 2-0 Hibs: Little pleasure by the beach for Hibs kids
A total of 12 players aged 21 or under, including two on show for the first time in Ross Caldwell and David Gold, were given the chance to impress as Calderwood gave youth a fling.
But in the end the older local boys were having none of it as the Championship outfit cruised to a reasonably comfortable 2-0 victory with goals in either half from Elliot Grandin and Billy Clarke. However, Hibs' crying need to strengthen their strikeforce was again underlined with Garry O'Connor, while listed as one the substitutes, sitting among the larger than might have been expected travelling support, boss Colin Calderwood unwilling to risk his only recognised hitman ahead of Saturday's hazardous trip to Inverness Caley.
As such, 19-year-old forward David Crawford was handed the onerous task of pitching his inexperience against defenders who only a few weeks ago were facing the likes of Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney in the Premier League. Little surprise, then, that Hibs didn't manage a shot on target throughout. Alongside O'Connor was Ivan Sproule, the winger nursing an ankle knock which was picked up against Celtic and aggravated in training yesterday morning, the absence of the duo along with the injured trio of Sean O'Hanlon, Akpo Sodje and Sean Welsh highlighting the somewhat threadbare look of Calderwood's squad.
Circumstances have changed drastically for both clubs since they met on the Lancashire coast this time last year, the Red Arrows breaking from a performance at a local airshow to thunder over Bloomfield Road in salute of Blackpool having clinched a place in the English top flight for the first time a year ago. They have since been returned to the Championship, albeit having lit up the top tier for much of the season, while their visitors' own travails over the intervening 12 months have been well documented. Changes aplenty there have been at Easter Road, a new incumbent in the dug-out while last night's starting line-up contained only three of those who featured from the first whistle a year ago, namely Michael Hart, Paul Hanlon, and Edwin De Graaf.
Hibs' goalscorers in that 2-1 win, Derek Riordan and Liam Miller, have departed along with a host of other familiar faces but Calderwood's selection bore little resemblance to that which had lost the opening game of the season to Celtic, eight of that side dropping to the bench while O'Hanlon, the victim of a suspected broken toe was missing altogether.
Blackpool, too, have undergone a transformation, last season's talisman Charlie Adams among those who had gone elsewhere, although the Seasiders still contained figures who would be instantly recognisable to those fans from Edinburgh in former Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson, who took over the armband, and veteran striker Kevin Phillips, a fellow signing from Birmingham City. Scotland duo Matt Gilks and Stephen Crainey also started.
As far as Calderwood was concerned it would be an intriguing battle between youth and experience at both ends of the pitch, Crawford in a catch-weight contest with Craig Cathcart and Ian Evatt, while Hibs' back four, containing three players in David Stephens, Paul Hanlon and Scott Smith, aged 20, 21 and 19 respectively, were tasked with countering the years of Phillips and Brett Ormerod. As such, it was little surprise that it was Phillips who would have the first two efforts on goal, volleying a Brett Ormerod cross well over before latching onto Gary Taylor-Fletcher's cutback with a drive which also missed the target - but on this occasion only by a couple of yards. Of greater concern to Hibs, given the injury problems they have already encountered this season, was the sight of Martin Scott limping off with a shin gash after only half-an-hour following a midfield clash with Cathcart. The introduction of Geordie midfielder Lewis Horner increased to seven the number of Hibs players aged 21 or under, with a further five on an extended bench, the recognisable figures of Callum Booth and David Wotherspoon joined by the less well-known Ross Caldwell, Danny Handling and David Gold.
Hibs were still readjusting when, three minutes later Grandin caught Crainey's cross on the volley 14 yards out to leave Mark Brown helpless. The keeper, though, kept Hibs in touch five minutes later, stretching himself to touch Phillips' rising drive over. As on Sunday, Hibs weren't short of energy or determination but were again lacking a cutting edge, although the away fans weren't slow to let assistant referee William Smallwood know they felt he was wrong to flag Crawford offside on one of the rare occasions they threatened the opposition penalty area.
Calderwood made a raft of changes just short of the hour-mark but it was the evergreen Ormerod who went close to adding to Blackpool's lead with a speculative curling effort. The home side's only hint of danger up to this point was a momentary mix-up between Gilks and Evatt as they pondered who should deal with the ball at the edge of their area before the goalkeeper smuggled it to safety. Teenager Caldwell did his best to cause Gilks a bit more trouble, taking fellow substitute Matt Thornhill's clever reverse pass before turning Cathcart only to see his shot fly wide of the far post. Again, though, it was an isolated threat from Hibs, Blackpool substitute Craig Sutherland forcing Brown down to hold his low shot as the Seasiders continued to seek the second goal.
Taylor-Fletcher went even closer, Brown unable to hold his powerful shot in the first instance but alive to the presence of Phillips as he got off his knees to grab the ball at the second attempt. But Clarke clinched the victory, coolly slotting the ball beyond Brown with only five minutes remaining, although the Hibs keeper ensured that was as much as Blackpool would get as he used his left knee to deny Phillips a third less than a minute later.
Blackpool (4-5-1): Gilks, Baptiste. Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey; Taylor-Fletcher, Grandin, Ferguson, Southern, Ormerod; Phillips. Subs: Hill, Sutherland, Clarke, Silvestre, Halstead, Bruna, Harris, Bignot, Eastham, Husband, Djordjic, Eardley.
Hibs (4-2-3-1): Brown, Hart, Stephens (Murray 79), Hanlon (Palsson 59), Smith (Booth 59), De Graaf (Gold 79), Stevenson (Thornhill 59), Taggart (Wotherspoon 59), Scott (Horner 30). Galbraith (Handling 79), Crawford (Caldwell 59). Subs not used: Stack, Sproule, O'Connor.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.