New boss breaks his duck but Hibs only just survive a late push by the Blue Brazil to make fifth round of the competition
WHEN Bluebell the cow came whizzing down the speedway track on his scooter you knew that things were getting lively at Central Park. He was giving it laldy, was Bluebell. Waving his arms, demanding the noise from the home fans as their team pushed hard for an equaliser in the Cup tie’s dying minutes. There were fewer than 3,000 people here, but it seemed more. To be among the home support in the ramshackle old stand was to know what Cup football was all about. The lot of them had the scent of a late leveller in their flaring nostrils – and they damn near got it.
Hibs had lost a goal inside 15 seconds. Yes, 15 seconds. If Carlsberg did calamities, the first place they’d head for would be Easter Road. All the chat about showing defiance, all the things they would have said to each other about keeping it tight, about giving Colin Cameron’s confident team nothing to get their teeth into. All of it out the window before the first heckling of Pat Fenlon, of which there were many from the home fans.
The visitors soon rallied, though. “Showed some balls,” as Fenlon, said later. Hibs went 3-1 ahead and looked like they were going to coast their way to the final whistle. They weren’t all that impressive but they were dogged and they looked to have too much for Cowdenbeath in those moments. The goals came from Leigh Griffiths, Eoin Doyle and David Wotherspoon. Bluebell didn’t have much pep in his step at that point. The fightback would bring him out with a vengeance, however.
The breeze was a factor, no question. Hibs had it in the first half and dominated for all bar those early seconds. Cowdenbeath had it for the second half and they became the dominant side, Jon Robertson lifting a ball over Sean O’Hanlon in the 69th minute and driving it past Mark Brown to set up a finale that was full-blooded to say the least. It was all Cowdenbeath as the clock ticked down. Having scored one, Robertson could, and possibly should, have had another but blazed over the crossbar. He stuck his head in his hands afterwards. Then he looked to the Gods in frustration. Then buried his head again. It was a hell of a chance. Cowdenbeath had loads of the ball thereafter but didn’t create another opportunity like that one. What a fine effort, but nothing to show for it. Hibs survived. In truth, though, they just about deserved to, giving Fenlon his first win as manager.
“I’m happy we won,” said Fenlon, “We made it hard for ourselves. We should have been more comfortable at half-time, but we dropped a bit, we got nervous, edgy. We got pinned-in and went deeper and deeper. People doubted their bottle and their mentality. Conditions were not in favour and the early goal only rams that home, but they stuck at it and showed their character.”
A modicum of respite for Fenlon, then, before that howitzer of an SPL match at Dunfermline this coming weekend. At least the Hibs manager has something to build on now. A few blocks only, but something. More than they looked like having when they lost that opening goal.
For Cowdenbeath, it was a goal of the most beautiful kind. For Hibs, a total calamity, a thing of simplicity, another embarrassment to heap on top of all the other embarrassments that have befallen them this season. Cameron began it by winning possession in the midfield and playing a ball up to Greig Stewart who then went by O’Hanlon before snapping a shot low past the Hibs goalkeeper
In fairness to Hibs, if they were looking for excuses or wanting to feel sorry for themselves then there were plenty of things they could have latched on to. But they dug in. Dug and dug and came up with an equaliser that was striking in that it was a quality moment.
It dropped out of the sky, quite frankly. When Cameron lost possession fully 30 yards from his own goal there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of danger but, when you smash a ball as sweetly as Griffiths smashed it, then anything is possible. Thomas Flynn in the Cowdenbeath goal saw it coming, but it was past him before he knew what to do with himself.
It would be wrong to say that Hibs went for the jugular, but they took advantage of the wind at their backs and put things together well enough at times. They thoroughly deserved their lead when it came via Eoin Doyle. Making his first start, the Irishman scored his first goal when knocking in a rebound after Flynn had blocked his initial attempt. Not long after the break, Hibs made it three when Danny Galbraith found Wotherspoon at the near post and he dived to head home.
If it looked at the time like the goal that had guaranteed Hibs the victory, then the contest took on a different complexion almost immediately. Just as Cowdenbeath had been pegged back by Hibs, now Hibs were pegged back by Cowdenbeath. They piled forward, got a second goal and almost got a third. In the process they gave Fenlon a mighty scare. He was smiling at the end, but only just. This was another nervy afternoon. Plenty more where this came from, too.