With his young side adhering impeccably to his attacking gameplan, they stunned Hibs by racing to a 3-0 lead in the opening half hour of the Scottish Cup semi, and although Hibs forced the match into extra time and eventually progressed to the 26 May final, Holt, pictured, said he couldn’t fault his players.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions. It just wasn’t to be but I am probably the proudest man in the world right now. All week long, I said to them go out there and showcase their talents. I asked them to put their bodies on the line and give me their all. On both counts, they delivered – and then some!”
While his Hibs counterpart Pat Fenlon admitted he never wanted to go through a nerve-shredding match like that ever again, for Holt it was an afternoon to treasure, despite the result.
“That is why we are in football, for the taste of these occasions. You want to win but it is not always possible. But, listen, as a manager I loved it. It was probably – apart from my wedding – the best day of my life.”
He conceded his players were not feeling quite so positive.
“I said to them, it is not about being losers. I don’t see them as losers, we just didn’t win. There are a lot of positives to be taken but the players don’t see it at the moment. They are hurting. They feel they have let everyone down. But this experience will stand them in good stead.”
He said half-time had interrupted their momentum and allowed Hibs to regroup. “That was the key moment because we just wanted to stay out there and play. Their first goal probably came at the wrong time for us. Ten minutes later and the nerves would have settled.”
Fenlon admitted the interval had been a turning point but said his players deserved credit for they way the battled back.
“The players know that the first half wasn’t good enough and we were fortunate going in at 3-0. But the changes helped and they gave us a different dimension. The front two worked tremendously hard and the two wide players were very, very good for us in the second half.
“They showed tremendous character and there’s massive heart in there and they got a reaction and to come from behind, 3-0, in the semi final of a cup, is a tremendous achievement. It has got us to the final for the second year in a row which is fantastic for everybody.”