Hibs 4-2 Dundee United: Christian Doidge hat-trick fires Hibees into Scottish Cup fifth round

For the second midweek in a row scouts flocked to Easter Road. Lawrence Shankland, the subject of their interest on this occasion, once again displayed his scoring prowess. But it was the less heralded Christian Doidge who might have had representatives from the likes of Sheffield United and Stoke City checking how to spell his name by the end.

Christian Doidge celebrates with the match ball after his hat-trick. Picture: SNS
Christian Doidge celebrates with the match ball after his hat-trick. Picture: SNS

That’s presuming they hung around long enough to see the striker score a second half hat-trick to secure a fifth-round spot for Hibs. The Easter Road side can now eye with considerable relish a tie with BSC Glasgow from the Lowland League at Alloa’s Indodrill stadium. They did, however, make it supremely hard for themselves, as they had done in the first game at Tannadice ten days ago.

Martin Boyle continued his remarkable run of involvement in his side’s goals when winning the penalty from which Hibs drew level after the in-demand Shankland’s stunning early opening goal. The architect of Hibs’ second was the often unheralded Joe Newell. Doidge swept in the cross. Substitute Adrian Sporle equalised seven minutes later with his first touch. Doidge headed in his side's third goal with 17 minutes left of another entertaining clash, with Newell again assisting from a corner kick. Hibs managed to keep the lead and, indeed, increased it in the dying moments as Doidge bagged the match ball with his 14th goal of the season.

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Complimentary tickets were piled high for scouts from the likes of Sheffield United, Stoke City and QPR. Shankland’s renown has spread throughout the British Isles, hence the collection of clubs represented at Easter Road.

And yet it was as if Hibs had never heard of him when he put his side in front after 11 minutes with perhaps the pick of the 26 goals he’s scored to date this season for his club. The home side’s defenders compounded this failure to provide anything like adequate marking later in the same half. Fortunately for them Shankland was uncharacteristically wide with his effort from around 10 yards. Again, it was as if he was operating within an exclusion zone.

He’s only top goalscorer in Scotland. Jack Ross himself had put Shankland in the same bracket as the likes of Alfredo Morelos, Odsonne Edouard and Sam Cosgrove and then suggested he would not be given any special treatment. Fair enough. But Hibs seemed to elect to stand off him. Adam Jackson was nowhere near the striker when Peter Pawlett’s ball came in from the right after 11 minutes.

Shankland took the ball down on his chest before swivelling to hit a sweet half-volley past Ofir Marciano from 20 yards, with the goalkeeper also looking slightly suspect.

A row of scouts bent their heads and scribbled “sign him now” in their notebooks. Over 1600 United fans in the away end jumped around with delight. Owner Mark Ogren and his son Scott were among them. Intensifying their glee was the knowledge that they are set to bank a windfall for the striker, if he departs for pastures new.

Some of those scouts might also have taken note of a sprightly looking fellow playing like a young Roy Keane in the centre of midfield. Steven Whittaker reprised the role he performed in the first game at Tannadice and was again impressive. He was later named man of the match by sponsors.

Whittaker had hit the post in the opening minutes after powering through several challenges. Benjamin Siegrist beat away another fierce shot from the born again midfielder.

United could have made things tricky for their hosts ten minutes before half-time. Pawlett’s corner after 35 minutes saw Shankland peel off from the group of players inside the six-yard box. Having shaken himself free with considerable ease he only had to try and keep his volley down while swivelling his body. It’s a tricky task even for strikers like him in such a rich vein of form. There was an almost audible gasp of surprise when his effort went high over.

United’s aim was to reach half-time still ahead, but this was beyond them. Calum Butcher tripped Boyle on the right of the box. Allan sent Siegrist the wrong way from the spot.

The drama had barely begun.

Just before the hour mark, Hibs took the lead for the first time on the night and the third time in the tie. Newell picked up possession on the edge of the box and weaved his way towards the byline before crossing. Horgan failed to connect at the near post but Doidge, following up behind him, made no mistake.

The teams were level again shortly afterwards. Sporle replaced Ian Harkes after 65 minutes. By 66 minutes he had made it 2-2, directing Liam Smith’s cross past Marciano with the aid of a significant deflection. But United switched off after 73 minutes with fatal consequences as far as their Scottish Cup ambitions for this season are concerned. Doidge rose to meet Newell’s corner and saw his header bounce down into the net off the underside of the bar.

He completed his hat-trick in the 90th minute by lashing the ball into the net after it had landed at his feet following a corner.