Craig Fowler gives his take on the first Scottish Cup semi-final as Hibs advance past Dundee United on penalties.
Hibs have a goalkeeping dilemma
Conrad Logan’s performance today wasn’t just heroic under the circumstances, it was also the best individual goalkeeping display Hibs have had since Ben Williams was at the club. Alan Stubbs rates Mark Oxley very highly and has remained unwaveringly loyal to his No.1, even last season when he had the superior Tomas Cerny in reserve, but fans have become increasingly sceptical of the goalkeeper’s ability to be an effective last line of defence. Stubbs now has a big decision to make. Does he stick with the popular Logan or go back to his favoured custodian.
Hibs are knackered
Hibs were the side on top for almost all of the first half, even though United had the better chances on the counter-attack. They retained this control into the second half until around the 60-minute mark, at which point Dundee United began to knock the ball about a bit themselves and were the team on top by the end of the 90 minutes. Hibs just weren’t playing with the same intensity or energy. Fraser Fyvie, in particular, was a shadow of the player he was in the first half. Though obviously delighted to get into the Scottish Cup final and have a real shot at ending the 114-year wait for the trophy, another huge game on an already bloated fixture list may be detrimental to Hibs’ promotion hopes.
Jason Cummings never lacks confidence
He only ended a poor recent run in front of goal five days ago with a double against Falkirk, but that wasn’t enough to dissaude Cummings from trying to channel his inner-Zidane and open the scoring with a ‘Panenka’ penalty kick. It failed and he was made to look the fool while his manager, and thousands of fans, fantasised about throttling him. Fast forward to the penalty shoot-out, Cummings is strolling forward with the chance to win the game. Every other player in the world would have worn, at the very least, a concerned look. Cummings, on the other hand, had a big smile on his face. He dispatched the penalty with ease as Dundee United stopper Eiji Kawashima stayed rooted to the spot. The Japanese international probably identified Cummings as the only player with the gallusness to try the move again.
El Alagui has chronic fitness problems
When fit, the striker is a great asset to Hibs. Stubbs likes to use the 4-4-2 diamond, drawing the other teams to the centre of the park and opening space for the full-backs to get forward. In the opening 30 minutes, Hibs did this to United repeatedly and a number of crosses were slung into the box. The only problem was the lack of anyone with aerial ability to convert these opportunities. Under such circumstances, El Alagui should have been on a lot sooner. But Stubbs knew what we soon found out, that you can never tell when the striker’s body is going to break down, and bringing him on earlier would have represented a major gamble. He was on for only 17 minutes before leaving the field again with a groin strain.
Billy Mckay still can’t score one-on-ones
It’s always been a flaw of the striker’s game and it came back to haunt him, and his side, big time today. For whatever reason, Mckay’s never instilled much confidence in his fans when he’s going through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. For whatever reason - perhaps he thinks too much about it, maybe he doesn’t think enough - he fails to score with greater frequency than most attackers. This is despite being so deadly in other situations.