If at first you don’t succeed...
How do you like that? What better way to end 114 years of hurt than by winning a final when very few people would have given you a chance? Not prior to the game, of course, as many people thought Hibs could lift the trophy. But after letting a 1-0 lead slip and trailing to their opponents despite dominating a lot of the game in terms of chances created, even the most optimistic of fans must have thought they had blown an opportunity yet again at the end of a season full of blown opportunities. Instead, Hibs refused to succumb to fatalism and keep going at Rangers right until the full-time whistle. They knew they were the superior side on the day and believed that if they kept up their performance levels they would get their reward in the end. Congratulations Hibs. You were deserved winners.
Anthony Stokes is still a top striker in this country
There’s two sides to Stokes’ performance. On the one hand, he was incredible. Rarely has there been a performance as good as that in the Scottish Cup final. He terrorised Rangers and there is little doubt that Hibs would not have lifted the trophy were it not for their on loan striker. On the other, where was this Stokes for the majority of his loan spell? More performances such as this one and Hibs could have two trophies and promotion back to... Actually, on second thoughts, Hibs fans won’t care a jot. While some claimed they wanted promotion over the Scottish Cup, the absolute outpouring of emotion when David Gray’s header hit the back of the net showed you the Scottish Cup was the Holy Grail. Promotion can be achieved next year. Had they not secured victory today, there’s no telling how long they would have had to wait to feel such bliss.
Liam Henderson has a terrific future in the game
Alan Stubbs got his tactics absolutely spot on as Hibs really got in the faces of a Rangers side clearly lacking in match sharpness. However, the one curious omission from the starting XI was Liam Henderson. He’s had a tremendous season, was Hibs best player in the two games against Falkirk and yet found himself among the substitutes as Fraser Fyvie started ahead of him in the 3-5-2. Although, in the end, whether this was the right call or not won’t matter to Hibs or their manager. They got the desired result. And who knows, with Henderson’s added guile, maybe Hibs would never have trailed. But then again, had he been on for the full 90, he may not have had enough energy left in those legs to deliver two stunning corner kicks that won Hibs the match.
Serious questions remain of the Rangers defence
Many observers, including this writer, have stuck up for the Rangers back-line this season. While the Ibrox side have had a propensity to lose soft goals, often it’s been a case of the defence being far too exposed due to the attacking style of the team. However, while Rangers did put out their usual attacking line-up, members of the defence will be deeply disappointed in their performance, particularly James Tavernier and Rob Kiernan on the right-hand side. Neither of those two players looked like they had the faintest idea how to deal with Anthony Stokes. It was problem that was highlighted in the third minute, when Kiernan allowed Stokes to dribble unchallenged into the area and pass the ball into the far corner, and wasn’t resolved the entire game.
Rangers’ lack of depth came back to bite them
Mark Warburton’s side were a shadow of themselves in the first half. Whether this was due to rust or the tenacious play of their opponents is up for debate, but they only began to look like a semblance of the side that romped to the Ladbrokes Championship title for a 20-minute period in the second half, where they stroked the ball around and pushed themselves in front thanks to Andy Halliday’s stunner. Things soon unravelled as they were unable to build on that momentum, due in part to this being the period of the match where the players tired. Warburton always likes to introduce fresh legs in the final third of games, but the introduction of Nicky Clark and Dean Shiels only served to weaken Rangers, with Clark carelessly letting the ball run out of play at the halfway line, an act that proceeded a Hibs counter-attack that forced the match winning corner.