HIBERNIAN are far from a one-man team but time and again it is one man in particular who seems to make the telling impact. They had managed to get the breakthrough against Montrose without the help of Scott Allan but it was only when he came on, in the 65th minute, that Hibs’ superior qualities really shone through and they guaranteed themselves a place in the next round of the League Cup.
The midfielder, who is still embroiled in a transfer tug o’ war, started off on the bench for the second week in succession. He received a warm reception whenever he ventured out of the dug-out to warm up and, when he was eventually introduced to the action, in the second half, the hearty applause drowned out the low hum of boos.
Scotty is a professional boy so it was no surprise to see him come on do what he didFraser Fyvie
But while the playmaker had struggled to show his worth last weekend, he was bursting with the verve and ingenuity which make him a stand-out performer in most matches and, within six minutes of coming on, he doubled Hibs’ lead and lifted the pace and tempo of the play to the extent that any dwindling hopes the League 2 side had were extinguished completely.
As he peeled away after his 71st minute strike left the net billowing, he was immediately swamped by team-mates. It was more than the usual celebrations, it was a display of camaraderie.
“I’m good friends with Scotty and I speak to him about things every day,” said colleague Fraser Fyvie. “He is a very professional boy with the way he goes about his business every day so it was no surprise to see him come on and do what he did. Everybody can see what he brings to the team and I thought he was terrific when he came on.
“Any team would be lucky to have Scotty because of the quality he has. He gave us that cutting edge the moment he stepped on the park. As I say, any team would be lucky to have him – and we have him!”
Manager Alan Stubbs is adamant that will still be the case come the end of the transfer window and, with the arrival of John McGinn last week, everyone at Hibs knows that they could have a midfield many teams will envy.
“It’s a good midfield,” said Fyvie, who, along with youngsters Scott Martin, Sam Stanton and Alex Harris, provides some of the quality and plenty of strength and depth in that department. “John has come in and looks really sharp and good [in training]. He might be ready for next week and that can only be good for the team. That competition is good for the squad. It keeps you on your toes and ensures you need to fight for your place every week.”
They didn’t exactly have to battle for the victory on Saturday. Against part-timers who worked hard before running out of steam, they simply had to be patient and cling to their self-belief.
The Links Park side, who finished last season at the bottom of the league pile, had given the home side a minor scare in the second minute when Ross Campbell went down in the box after Mark Oxley came charging off his line. There were appeals for a penalty but even their manager Paul Hegarty admitted there wasn’t enough in it to sway the referee.
But that was about that from the underdogs in an attacking sense. They were organised and they stifled Hibs’ forays forward, last-ditch challenges limiting their hosts and prompting more long-range efforts but the breakthrough finally came.
It was teenager Martin who scored in the 32nd minute, latching on to Harris’s pass to slot beyond Ross Salmon but too often in first half they were slack with the passing, their decision-making lazy.
But, when Allan replaced Marvin Bartley with 25 minutes remaining, there was a greater sense of dynamism and creativity as he helped engineer a way beyond the stodgy defence.
Having weighed in with his own goal, he inspired the side to come up with several other openings and, with nine minutes remaining, Jason Cummings was also celebrating a goal to give the scoreline a bit of context, given the gulf between the sides.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, Bartley (S Allan 65), Stanton (Sinclair 83), Fyvie, Martin, Harris (Shaw 74), Cummings. Subs not used: Reguero, Dunsmore, Crane, L Allan.
Montrose: Salmon, Ferguson, Reoch, Allan, Steeves, Johnston, McCord (Milne 81), Watson, Webster, Campbell (Reid 59), Fraser. Subs not used: Kenneth, Masson, McLeod, Wilcox, Butter
Referee: J Beaton