Alloa Athletic, already relegated from the second tier, having not won a home game all season, went into Saturday’s match with Hibernian as astonishing 20-1 underdogs.
In the eyes of the bookmakers, several horses at this year’s Grand National had a greater chance of success than the Indodrill hosts. Yet it was Hibs who failed to clear the smallest of hurdles, falling flat and watching rivals Falkirk gallop away in the race for second place.
The most galling thing for Hibs fans would have been the lack of urgency in their team’s performance. After the match, manager Alan Stubbs bemoaned the notorious Alloa pitch and stated his incredulity that the far-side linesman was confident enough that Michael Duffy’s 45th-minute strike, which hit the underside of the bar before coming down to earth and bouncing back into play, had definitely crossed the line. However, considering Alloa’s home record this campaign – their last victory at the ground came against Forfar Athletic in last season’s play-off final – it is clutching at straws to suggest the pitch gives the hosts any sort of major advantage, while there were still 45 minutes left for Hibs to get themselves back into the game against the worst side in the league.
They controlled most of the possession and enjoyed the lion’s share of the chances, but they lost because they allowed Alloa to win the physical and mental battles.
“I just don’t think we were good enough today, not enough second balls won, not even first balls won. Just not good enough,” said a frank David Gray. “I think it’s too easy to look for excuses. There are no excuses, the pitch was the same for both teams. The goal is just one of those things that happens. There’s enough time for us to get back into the game after the goal.
“Credit to Alloa. We’ve got everything to play for and, with the biggest respect to them, they’ve got nothing to play for. But you wouldn’t have thought that from the way the game went. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don’t perform then hard work will always beat quality.”
The one positive for Hibs is that they can make everyone forget about Saturday’s result, and get back into the chase for second place, if they can defeat Falkirk at Easter Road tomorrow evening.
The way things are going for Hibs at the moment, with one win in seven against Championship opposition, there won’t be huge amounts of optimism among the Easter Road faithful. However, it’s the sort of big match in which Hibs have generally thrived this season, with the only recent result deserving of any superlatives coming at Inverness CT in the Scottish Cup quarter-final.
With the semi-final against Dundee United next weekend, and the hope of ending the club’s 114-year hoodoo, it is imperative that Falkirk be despatched and some sort of momentum regained by the Hibernian squad.
“I think we need to go into every game now looking at it as a ‘must win’,” insisted Gray. “It’s all about the results between now and the end of the season. We need to have a great end to the season. We’ve got a chance to put it right on Tuesday night with a big game against Falkirk at home. That’s what we need to do now.”