Hibernian 3 - 0 Irvine Meadow: Irvine make Hibs work hard for victory

HIBS eased their way into tomorrow's Active Nation Scottish Cup fifth round draw with a victory over Ayrshire Junior side Irvine Meadow which wasn't as comfortable as the final scoreline might have suggested.

• Zemmama (right) drills home Hibs' second goal of the game (SNS)

For long spells the Easter Road club made heavy weather of this historic clash, surviving a penalty claim before an own goal from Irvine's Alexander Ryan eased them ahead. Merouane Zemmama made it two before the interval and Paul Hanlon ensured victory with a third after 59 minutes.

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But Irvine, too, hit woodwork through Brian McGinty although Hibs would point to a number of missed opportunities to record an even more emphatic victory. As for "The Medda," they departed defeated but with a handsome cheque, an afternoon to remember and the comfort of knowing they had done the Junior game proud.

As promised, Hibs boss John Hughes fielded his strongest side, the only change being the return of centre-forward Colin Nish with Darren McCormack suspended following his red card in last weekend's derby with Hearts.

Although overwhelming favourites Hibs made heavy weather of the opening minutes as their opponents sought to make light of the gulf between the two clubs, Brian McGinty trying his luck with a rising shot which zipped over the crossbar before John Hughes' side survived an anxious moment as Richie Barr went down under the challenge of goalkeeper Graeme Smith.

However, referee Euan Norris judged the former Hibs kid had taken a dive although television pictures apparently suggested contact had been made.

There was no questioning the Junior outfit's commitment or zest for the game but they fell behind in the cruellest fashion after 32 minutes. Zemmama and David Wotherspoon allowing the latter to deliver a low cross which came off the head of right-back Ryan and into the net although there was little doubt Derek Riordan would have converted in any case.

Nevertheless, "The Medda" hit back, Chris Strain firing in a shot which Smith couldn't hold only for the Irvine player to send his second attempt woefully wide.

The Ayrshire side went even closer in the 34th minute as McGinty curled in a shot which looked to be going well wide only for the ball to clip the inside of Smith's left-hand post and fall safe.

Hibs doubled their lead three minutes from the break, Anthony Stokes chasing down Riordan's pass before turning it back into the path of Zemmama who dispatched a terrific right-foot shot into the top corner of the net.

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Only a great challenge by Ryan prevented Riordan adding a third before Colin Nish prodded a Zemmama pass inches wide as Hibs ended the opening 45 minutes with a flourish.

Irvine began the second half as they had the first, on the front foot and Smith needed two attempts to take another powerfully struck shot from Strain although at the other end it took a terrific last-ditch challenge from Chris Robertson to prevent John Rankin scoring before goalkeeper Michael Wardrope did well to push over a vicious effort from Hanlon.

There was no stopping Hanlon, however in the 59th minute as he took Riordan's ball down the line and raced into the penalty area to drill a low shot into the far corner.

Hanlon's goal ended any threat of a giantkilling act and Anthony Stokes almost made it four with an effort which came off the post before Barr passed up the chance to claim a consolation goal, blasting wildly over from 12 yards when he should have done better.

Hibs: G Smith, Wotherspoon, Hogg, Murray, Hanlon, Zemmama (Cregg 68), Miller, Rankin (Stevenson 62), Stokes, Nish (Benejlloun 71), Riordan. Subs not used: Flynn, McBride.

Irvine Meadow: Ryan, Lowing, McGowan (Swift 64), Robertson, Wingate, Strain, Turner (McClymont 90), Barr, McGinty (Boyle 67), Hamilton. Subs not used: Hewitt, Cuddihy.

Referee: Euan Norris.

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