For Hibernian, Alloa may hold painful memories, given the way their season hit rock bottom back in August, and Saturday’s victory was another indication they have moved on from that collective nadir. However, for one player in particular, the nerves were jangling just a little more as he battled the demons of a personal career low.
Fraser Fyvie was back at the Indodrill Stadium for the first time since damaging cruciate knee ligaments playing for Aberdeen. The name of Alloa’s ground may have changed since that fateful day in August 2010 but the artificial surface blamed for the injury remains the same one that is widely castigated as Scotland’s worst.
Not only was the 21-year-old back at the old Recreation Park for the first time, but he later revealed he had, in fact, set foot on a plastic pitch for the first time since recovering from the nine frustrating months he spent on the sidelines saving his fledgling career.
Yet, Fyvie, who after joining Hibs a month ago appears to be inching back to the kind of prodigious form that made him the Dons’ youngest debutant as a 16-year-old, is adamant there was no way he was going to ask to be left out of head coach Alan Stubbs’ weekend plans, even if he was going against doctor’s orders.
“I was a little bit nervous before the game, I have to say, because of the pitch,” he said after coming through unscathed. “But it’s just one of those things. I couldn’t have gone to the manager and said ‘I don’t want to play on that pitch’. As soon as the game started the nerves were away. You just start playing your game and I have to say I enjoyed it when we were on the ball. The pitch was actually not as bad as the last time I played on it. It was a bit softer.
“That’s actually the first time I’ve been on Astro-turf ever since I did my cruciate, since I was here the last time. The surgeon said I wasn’t allowed to play on it, so I was a bit nervous.
“What is it about Astro? It’s very sticky. The last time, my studs got caught in the ground and my body went one way and my knee went the other. When you do it you hope it doesn’t go again and thankfully it didn’t.
“So, have I overcome a bit of a mental hurdle by coming back? Maybe, yes, but when I come here next time I’ll still be nervous.”
Fyvie was felled to spark the game’s decisive moment 25 minutes into the first half and, ironically, Hibs had just survived four successive Alloa corners when they broke forward with pace to win the free kick. Scott Allan, back in the team after missing the previous week’s win over Dumbarton with a chest infection, swerved a low effort round the wall from the set-piece to find Craig McDowall’s bottom left-hand corner and effectively claim the three points.
For a spell thereafter, the Easter Road side’s vaunted midfield clicked into gear. Constantly interchanging, Allan, Fyvie, Dylan McGeouch and the deeper-lying Scott Robertson seized control and threatened to cut loose. However, aside from a McGeouch shot held by McDowall and a chance for Fyvie spurned by a heavy touch when he admitted a first-time effort would have been better, Hibs could not capitalise on their greater authority.
Alloa’s on-loan Dundee striker Phil Roberts almost made the capital outfit pay four minutes from the break when he swept a shot through a forest of legs to force a sound diving save from Mark Oxley, but the Wasps were wasteful in possession throughout and only kept themselves in with a chance of earning something from the game right to the end thanks to some stout defending.
Dominique Malonga, Fyvie and Martin Boyle were repelled when they appeared certain to score and Boyle – a second-half substitute along with Jason Cummings, who was last week at the centre of allegations of a late-night food fight in a capital fast-food restaurant – screwed a shot horribly wide with five minutes remaining when he could have eased the visitors’ anxieties.
The victory may have been a grind, but for Fyvie, who made just 11 appearances in two and a half seasons at Wigan Athletic, he is simply happy to be back playing first-team football in a midfield where he is allowed a freedom of expression.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best of performances on the day but we got the three points and we’re happy,” added Fyvie.
“When I came the boys already had a great understanding and I think I’ve developed that as well, and I have to say it’s really enjoyable to play in. You can drift wide or come inside and people fill in for you, and you fill in for them. It’s a team effort.
“My main aim when I first came was to get into the starting 11 and put in a performance; that’s what I’m here to do. I’m happy the manager’s given me the shirt in the last two games and I just need to keep a hold of that.”