Although often operating in Shankland’s shadow on those occasions when he has been on the pitch, the 20-year-old Appere is having a season to remember. Five goals is a decent return in what is proving his breakthrough campaign following a spell on loan at junior side Broughty Athletic.
His latest strike secured a replay a week on Tuesday at Easter Road. Appere replaced Peter Pawlett midway through the second half and equalised with a curling effort that cleared Ofir Marciano’s slightly half-hearted dive to his left and went in off the post. Hibs managed to lose their grip on the tie on two occasions. Once is unfortunate, twice is carelessness in the extreme.
The visitors took the lead early in each half and passed up several chances to kill the game. Potentially more damaging for their prospects this season is the news that both Jason Naismith and Ryan Porteous suffered knee injuries. The former was replaced at half-time by cup talisman David Gray and the latter hobbled off to be replaced by Darren McGregor in the second half.
The 9,400 crowd enjoyed something approaching a cup classic. All four goals were well-executed, starting with Christian Doidge’s opener after seven minutes. Scott Allan switched the play to Martin Boyle, who ran across the box before laying a pass off for Doidge, who steered a shot into the far corner.
Hibs will rue missing several chances, no more so than when Boyle again turned provider to play in Melker Hallberg eight minutes after Doidge had given Hibs the lead. Though still so early in the proceedings, another goal then might well have been sufficient to dampen United’s ardour to the extent they would be unable to recover.
Hallberg, a holding midfielder, never looked at ease and his shot lacked conviction. Still, Siegrist narrowed the angle well and tipped the Swede’s effort wide.
The keeper also blocked a deflected Florian Kamberi cross at his near post but he knew less about that. The suspicion grew that the visitors might be made to pay for not only failing to convert chances, but also surrendering control of midfield.
Steven Whittaker started for the first time since August and made a surprise appearance in this area. But Hibs’ early control waned and the hosts, while hardly carving through their opponents, were giving their fans reason to believe.
With someone like Shankland around, United need only one chance. It doesn’t matter whether it comes in the opening minutes or, as happened yesterday, three minutes into added time at the end of the first half. Indeed, it is at such moments, when there’s a temptation to begin switching off, that defenders have to be extra wary.
The debate over whether Shankland can make his mark against top-flight teams should have been redundant in any case. It is actually rarer for him to fail to score against teams from the Premiership these days.
But there was still some chatter about this subject on social media. The way Hibs allowed him to drift into the box to equalise suggested they were labouring under the misconception that he is not as clinical against sides of their status. Well, think again.
This was classic Shankland in that he had done very little of note previously. With Hibs and perhaps some United players’ minds beginning to turn to a half-time cuppa – the additional minutes followed lengthy treatment to Naismith – he sprang into action to latch on to a through ball from Ian Harkes.
There was still plenty of work to do. Shankland used his body well to root himself into the turf and hold off Lewis Stevenson, who was now out of the equation. It was only Shankland v the advancing Ofir Marciano. The striker will always take those odds. He rolled the ball into the keeper’s left-hand corner with his right foot to make it 25 goals for the season for United.
Referee Kevin Clancy blew for half-time seconds later and with smoke from a flare thrown on from the old Shed end of the ground still dispersing. Siegrist risked injury by picking it up and throwing the still smouldering item off the pitch.
The home fans were still purring about Shankland’s equaliser when Florian Kamberi set off down the left at the start of the second half. His cross found Allan, who provided a lay-off for Boyle. The winger took advantage of the lack of pressure applied on him by the United defenders and sent the ball past Siegrist from 22 yards.
Again, Hibs failed to build on a lead. They might have got away with it were it not for some inspiration from Appere combined with slackness by two veterans, Gray and Whittaker. The former gifted possession to Dillon Powers on the touchline, the latter allowed Appere to go round him with ease.
What followed was all down to the young Fifer’s opportunism as he bent a shot in at the far post from just outside the box.