Hibernian 3 - 0 Irvine Meadow: No fairytale for Meadow

IT WAS a lose-lose game that Hibs had to win. It's a statistic everyone at the club is only too well aware of – 108 years since their last Scottish Cup triumph. The only people in the ground who seemed unhindered by it were the visitors.

"The manager's last words to us were to go out, enjoy it and don't be scared," said Irvine Meadow's Richie Barr, revealing that they would rather have risked an 8-0 thumping in taking the game to the Leith side than simply packing the defence and midfield.

Only the second junior league club to have reached the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, Irvine Meadow obviously harboured plans for persistent progress if their approach to this match was a fair reflection of their intentions. Barr said they were delighted to see Hibs field their strongest side but had also feared being ripped apart. That fear worked for them rather than against them, though.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Consisting of the usual non-league mish-mash of tradesmen, bank workers and even a gravedigger, who, due to the weather had not played for around five weeks, they shouldn't have been close to unsettling an SPL side, but they started as though away days at grounds such as Easter Road were commonplace, the thought of a cup upset the only one occupying their minds. In the stands, family and friends were more excitable.

But the dream only lasted until the 32nd minute. That was when Hibs managed to edge themselves ahead, establishing a lead that would be extended rather than clawed back. It was a lead they did not deserve at the time. The Ayrshire side, decked out in Rangers colours and backed by a sizeable support who had borrowed a few ditties from the Ibrox club's song book, merited more than the typical "plucky" adjectives trotted out on such occasions.

Brian McGinty had a couple of efforts early on, flashing one across the goal and just wide of the far post. Another, this time from long range, rose up over the bar. In midfield they didn't allow their hosts to find any rhythm and at the back, captain Chris Roberston marshalled the likes of Anthony Stokes. It caused frustration in the home ranks and served to enhance the belief of the underdogs with Hibs gaffer John Hughes saying their display deserved the plaudits, if not a place in the next round. It also underlined the merits of a pyramid system, according to both managers.

In the first ever Scottish Cup meeting between a top-flight side and a junior outfit, there was a sense of history and occasion. Irvine Meadow had taken up their initial ticket allocation and come back for more, mustering more fans than some SPL teams have brought to the capital this season. "SPL, you're having a laugh" was a favourite in their repertoire early on, Hibs fans responding with chants of "Who are you?".

The Hibs players were getting a sense of who they were dealing with, the reigning Super League Premier Division champions giving them little time or space. In the 29th minute they served up a major scare. Barr had been raising his profile through the week with a Scottish Cup diary in a newspaper and could have secured more headlines when he ran into the box. Hibs keeper Graeme Smith rushed out and dived at his feet, with replays later confirming that contact had been made, but penalty shouts were ignored as referee Euan Norris booked the striker for diving. "He (Smith] committed himself and never touched the ball," said the roofer. "There wasn't a lot of contact but enough for a penalty. But I knew the referee was never going to give us the penalty, not at Easter Road."

It was a key moment because within the space of three minutes, Hibs had taken the lead when David Wotherspoon crossed from the right. Although there were a couple of Hibs players at the back post, with Riordan initially being credited with the goal, the final touch appeared to belong to Zander Ryan.

Meadow still strove for a way back. In the 34th minute Chris Strain had a double effort, the first a searing shot, the second foiled as much by a rush of anticipation in his own mind as anything else. McGinty then saw an audacious chip come back off the past.

Hibs extended their lead, though, just when their fraying nerves probably needed it most. Three minutes from the interval, Stokes kept possession well, dancing about with the ball in the box until support arrived. Zemmama was the man best placed and drilled the lay-off into Michael Wardrope's top corner.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They could have added a third but Colin Nish put the ball wide. In the second half there were more forays from Meadow but the damage had been done and there was a greater sense of the inevitable as Hibs stood their ground and added another. Paul Hanlon had come close in the 56th minute when he belted down the left flank to get his chance and while Wardrope blocked that one, a replica run three minutes later was given a more clinical finish.

It wasn't an embarrassment for the visitors, who still wanted a goal to give them something to celebrate. The likelihood of getting one grew slimmer but at least they kept trying. It may have been a historic meeting but, come the final whistle, it lacked a heroic outcome.

Related topics: