Hibees happy to share in Cup dream

A CURIOUS thing happened during Hibs' hard-fought Active Nation Scottish Cup triumph over Junior outfit Irvine Meadow – Easter Road striker Anthony Stokes failed to score.

True, the Republic of Ireland striker saw one shot come off the post but nevertheless, Hibs' leading goalscorer failed to add to his tally of 11 for the season, seven of those goals having come in his last five matches. Stokes' record led to the bookies offering odds on both him and Derek Riordan claiming hat-tricks, the prices so tempting they were quickly slashed, presumably as confident Hibs supporters saw an easy way to a quick buck.

As it was the bookmakers' money was safe although the sight of Riordan opening the scoring – referee Euan Norris crediting him with the goal despite most believing Irvine defender Zander Ryan had directed the ball into his own net – probably caused their collective heartbeats to flutter.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hibs, of course, did get three goals, the others coming from Moroccan playmaker Merouane Zemmama and left-back Paul Hanlon who ended a surging 50-yard run by angling a low shot beyond Irvine goalkeeper Michael Wardrobe.

In each case it ended those particular individual's wait for a goal, Riordan's first since netting in the 2-0 win over Falkirk at the end of November while Zemmama last got his name on the scoresheet as he grabbed the opener in a 1-1 draw with Dundee United three months ago.

And Hanlon himself had to go even a bit further back, his last goal in a green and white shirt coming in the Co-operative Insurance Cup victory over Brechin City at the end of August.

But while admitting all three will have breathed a sigh of relief at having done so, Hanlon insisted having different goalscorers was an added bonus to take from the Cup win which now sees Hibs pitched against the winners of the match between Edinburgh City and Montrose.

Predicting it won't be long before Stokes is again on target, the Scotland Under-21 star said: "Stokesy has been on fire, it seemed as if he just couldn't stop scoring but no team can become over-reliant on one player.

"It can only be good for the team if as many players as possible are getting among the goals, whether they come from the full-backs, central defenders or midfield and the one thing we feel is that we do have goals in the side.

"Zouma would be delighted to get a goal as it was his first for a bit while Derek, as we all know, is desperate to score in every game. And obviously I was pleased with my goal, it was the third but an important one as it more or less finished the game."

Hanlon admitted he might not have got the chance to claim that goal had he been fielded at centre-half as boss John Hughes had hinted at in recent weeks as he wrestled with the loss of Sol Bamba to the African Cup of Nations.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That's the position he's occupied, and by all accounts with some accomplishment in Scotland's Under-21 European Championship campaign, but, Hanlon insisted, he's simply happy just to be handed a shirt by Hughes.

He said: "The gaffer wants his full-backs to get forward, look at the way Patrice Evra does it at Manchester United and how Paulo Maldini used to do it for AC Milan.

"It was a terrific pass from Deek, he's terrific at doing that as well as scoring, and although I could hear Stokesy shouting for the ball I decided to go for the shot. I'd had a chance a few seconds earlier which their goalkeeper saved so I was more than happy to see that one go in."

Hanlon admitted facing the Ayrshire Junior outfit – the first time such a side had played an SPL club in the Scottish Cup – was probably more difficult than the occasion of his debut when, as a 17-year-old, he was plucked from nowhere by new boss Mixu Paatelainen for the visit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the same competition.

He said: "I think as a youngster adrenaline gets you through, this time round was an entirely different proposition, coming straight after playing Rangers and then Hearts.

"We knew we were on a hiding to nothing regardless of the final score but you have to treat every game exactly the same never mind who the opposition might be.

"Irvine worked hard and caused us a lot of problems to be honest. We needed to do better, not give them so many chances while creating and scoring more ourselves. We needed to work harder as a team to get the ball back quicker than we did and cause them more problems, especially in the first half."

Like Hughes, Hanlon expressed relief the match had gone ahead at all with ground staff having worked through the night to ensure Hibs wouldn't suffer a fixtures backlog as other clubs now dread although next week's rearranged SPL match against St Johnstone has been called off again following the Saints' Scottish Cup tie at Forfar tonight falling victim to the weather for a second time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And following defeat by Rangers, a draw against Hearts and a less-than-convincing performance at the weekend, Hanlon insisted there was no hint of doubt creeping into Hughes' squad.

He said: "It was unfortunate our unbeaten run came to an end but Rangers were flying at that point and we probably had an off day. You can't do that against Rangers. If you do and gift them a couple of goals as we did then they are going to beat you.

"There are no worries, it's still just one defeat in 15 matches and if we continue like that until the end of the season then we won't be far away. We look to win all our games, it's been that way every week. We bounced back from losing to Rangers by taking a point in the derby which is a tough game. Now, after winning at the weekend, we have to look to do the same up at Dundee United on Saturday.

"The main thing is we got our game on, are in the next round with a home draw in our favour again and we can simply concentrate on playing our league games and worry about the Cup match when it comes round."