Hibs: Better than last year - but still no silverware on Hampden return

Last season they had come to Glasgow and passed up silverware. After all the hard work associated with getting there, they succumbed with a whimper, leaving Hampden empty-handed but with a head full of regrets.

Hibs' Josh Campbell at full time during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Hibs' Josh Campbell at full time during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

This time, they were denied the cup but they did come closer to getting their mitts on it.

Which is why, instead of boos ringing in their ears, the Hibs fan stayed to back their men, offering shouts of ‘Hibees, Hibees’ aimed at urging them on in the dying minutes and then lifting spirits after the final whistle sounded.

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The players had been penned in throughout the first half, wth Celtic enjoying nearly 75% of possession as hoofed, long clearances failed to stick upfield and the Glasgow side tested the down the flanks. But they limited the clear cut chances conjured up by Ange Postecoglou’s men. Even when a goal seemed imminent, captain Paul Hanlon stepped in to hook it off the line.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi in action alongside Paul Hanlon and Jake Doyle Hayes during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on December 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

A tough shift, they were not battered into submission, though, and emerged for the second half with a sense of purpose.

It paid off when they took the lead but if Paul Hanlon’s goal gave them the belief that they could go all the way at Hampden, Celtic’s immediate response - just 14 seconds after the restart - reminded them that nothing was a gimmie.

If the feelgood factor flickered at that point, it was not fully extinguished until John Beaten called time and the fact that Celtic did all they could to run down the clock, after Kyogo Furuhshi struck twice, proved that the capital side had brought more to the table than they did in May.

It just wasn’t enough, though. And while there was anger at the way the Celtic second goal played out, with Hibs caught off guard by a quick freekick when they thought a substitution was taking place, there is a need for them to learn from that degree of naivete.

As the Japanese forward burst through the napping back line to lob goalkeeper Matt Macey they will have realised that.

The preparations for the showpiece had been far from ideal, with the sacking of a coaching team that was popular among the players and had guided the team to their last handful Hampden appearances. A barrage of games in a short period of time had drained them further, as had a poor spell of form.

But they showed character to withstand Celtic’s first-half play and get the first goal and even more not to wilt when Ange Postecoglou’s men came back at them.

There were chances for Kevin Nisbet, Joe Newell, Paul Hanlon, and a strong penalty shout when Ryan Porteous was bundled to the ground late on as Hibs finished the game with centre-backs playing as centre-forwards and the whole team on the front foot.

That charge kept the fans inside the stadium and everyone on edge. Or, maybe it was the presence of 2016 Scottish Cup winner David Gray in the technical area that stirred hopes of another memorable finale. But this time there was no last hurrah as the final whistle sounded and heads dropped to hands.

It wasn’t the result they wanted but, having turned up and given their all, at least this time, everyone watching knew that.

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