SPL v Hibernian
HIBERNIAN 2 DUNFERMLINE 1 Date: 18/12/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 9859 Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Craig Mackay Weather: Dry Cold 3C
Hibs kicked off 13-8 on favourites to win this match but Dunfermline did well to keep them out until Stephen Glass made the breakthrough 20 minutes into the second half. Andy Tod immediately got the equaliser that looked like it would bring some Christmas cheer to East End Park until the Edinburgh side`s `never say die` attitude earned them a least gasp winner.
The win takes Hibs to within one point of Aberdeen in third place as Dundee defeated Jimmy Caldwerwood`s side to go level on 16 points with the Pars. Craig Brewster`s Inverness picked up three points at Fir Park to go two points clear of those two making the next two SPL matches at home to bottom club Livingston and fellow strugglers Dundee extremely important in terms of SPL survival.
Through injury Davie Hay was without six possible first team contenders and his bench comprised three players who played in the day before`s Under 19 league match in Dundee. Seventeen year-old Greg Ross, the Pars youngest ever in the SPL, started his second match while Andy Tod and Noel Hunt were in the striking roles. Andrius Skerla returned for his first match since 6th November.
Hibs status as hot favourites looked fair cop when as early as the second minute Derek Riordan swept a Gary O`Connor ball into the Pars net but the offside flag was up and there was nothing to get excited about. Riordan has scored twice in the last three meetings against the Pars and Derek Stillie had every right to be annoyed with his defenders for letting the Hibs top goalscorer into the right side of the penalty box to centre a good ball. The blue shirted Pars stopper diver forward to catch but the early warnings were all from the home team.
Andy Tod got a shot on target in the 7th minute but he used a hand as Hunt nodded on a Stillie kick out and Brown`s save was not necessary as Referee Mackay blew up. Hibs created more chances with Riordan blasting over the crossbar from 8 yards and then Stillie fisting away a corner after Skerla had been forced to put an end top a Murphy/Riordan move up the left.
Next minute it was Craig Rocastle`s cross that O`Connor nearly stuck away then Skerla had to move quickly to redeem a missed take out and thwart Alen Orman who had just been introduced in place of the injured Guillaume Beuzelin.
It was into the second quarter of the game before Dunfermline managed to warm the Hibs defence. Barry Nicholson`s fast break up the left was terminated by a professional foul from Gary Caldwell but Scott Thomson`s effort with a 30 yard free kick went over the crossbar.
Back at the other end, in front of the 385 travelling Fife support, David Murphy got the better of Ross and sent a fine ball into the six yard area forcing Thomson to head behind. Murphy ended up with the ball from the set piece but was high with his attempt. A similar fate met Whittaker`s 26th minute shot from 35 yards out on the right.
Dunfermline then forced their first corner of the game when Noel Hunt`s speed down the right and subsequent delivery was headed behind. Ian Murray headed away Nicolson`s ball and it was back to the other end where Dempsey`s timely tackle prevented Dean Shiels from getting in a shot.
The Pars were containing Hibs and even benefitting from as fair degree of possession without endangering the scoresheet. A second corner came the visitors way in the 33rd minute but Skerla couldn`t quite get the finish on the ball.
Hibs with their fast young strikers were always a threat on the counterattack. This was the case six miuntes later when Dunfermline had sprayed the ball about the Hibs half with Young, Mason, Dempsey, Hunt and Tod all trying to find a gap in the defence only to see Shiels forcefully take the ball away from Tod and switch upfield to Riordan. The Hibs number 10 sent in a ball from the left that sailed over O`Connor to Glass and it was he who hit the right upright allowing Skerla to boot clear.
Dunfermline finished the half with a flurry. Mason and Tod created a chance for Dempsey but his good strike was blocked by Murray. Then Wilson almost got to a Nicholson corner and into added time Dempsey was again teed up by Tod but shot over the top. Whittaker kept the Pars out with a brave header that earned him an injury after Ross`s big ball through to Hunt was swung in from the right for Tod to challenge.
The second half started with more Pars pressure and had their supporters up on their feet in the 48th minute. Andy Tod headed a Nicholson cross down towards the bottom left but Simon Brown got down to tip the ball around the post for a corner. Then Scott Thomson had a fine sfhot from 30 yards that was deflected off Gary Caldwell for another corner.
Hibs should have taken advantage of a slip up in the Pars defence. Skerla failed to stop the driving run of Caldwell and his pass to O`Connor saw the Hibs striker try a pass that very fortunately did not find a green shirt on the edge of the box but a deflection took it straight to Stillie.
Nipper, the Pars captain, had to be substituted in the 53rd minute however when he pulled a muscle and Pat Scullion came on for his SPL debut as a straight replacement. Nicholson tested Hibs keeper Simon Brown and although he saved falling to his left he too had to be substituted because of a hip injury. Alistair Brown took over but it was the Pars keeper who was kept the busiest.
An O`Connor strike in the 58th minute was turned over the crossbar for a corner after Greg Ross had unluckily turned a Shiels ball for Riordan into the striker`s path. Stillie fisted away the corner that came in from the left but the ball broke to Orman who might have been nudged as he ended up with a fresh air shot that brought penalty appeals from the home supporters.
The action continued towards Stillie with Scott Wilson`s diving header earning a corner after Orman had got around Scullion. Scullion turned the first away for another corner and then the defence cleared only for Riordan to show some sharp passing skills to send in a ball from the left that Stillie stopped.
Two minutes later in the 65th minute a tug stopped Steven Whittaker`s surging run 25 yards out. Eleven Pars men were back with ten strung along a line 15 yards out. From the free kick however Stephen GLASS powered a low shot that curled around the wall to find the bottom left of the Pars goal.
Fortune seemed to be really against the Fifers as Nicholson had to be substituted giving Ian Campbell the 19 year-old son of Brechin boss, Dick Campbell his first taste of the big team.
His first real involvement brought the Pars the equaliser within three minutes of going behind. Mason to Hunt then out to Ross on the right; the youngster pumped the ball deep into the Hibs penalty box and when it fell wide left Campbell return it for Andy TOD to head into the Hibs net.
With Barry Nicholson off Campbell found himself taking all the dead ball situations and he demonstrated the quality deliveries that he could produce. He sent a free kick in from the right that caused the substitute keeper enough trouble to concede a corner on the right. Campbell put that right into the danger zone and although another corner resulted Hibs were soon back on the attack.
Stillie took a Murphy cross and Scullion dealt with a Riordan cross. In the 81st minute Hibs brought on Sam Morrow for Glass but although he was keen to notch the winner he was wide with his first effort and then failed to turn in a better chance. Thomas Butler was Hay`s last throw replacing Noel Hunt and the sub`s ball in from the right dropped for Campbell to shoot but his drive was blocked.
Riordan had a shot that he sent into the stand and then a Caldwell drive from 35 yards was turned around his post by Stillie for a corner. The ball ended up in the net from the corner but Referee Mackay had blown up for a foul on the keeper which probably explains how it looked like the Pars keeper had punched it in his own goal.
In the first minute of the three added on at the end of normal time Gary Dempsey tried to chip the Hibs keeper from distance but was wide left. The Pars looked as though they had won a point when in the 93rd minute Hibs got the winner. Riordan`s ball into the penalty box found O`Connor on the left side of the Pars box and he threaded the ball back inside for Derek RIORDAN to set Easter Road alight.
The referee blew for the final time as soon as play was resumed. A cruel finish after yet another good performance that yielded the Pars nothing in the end.
It was Hibs first victory over their Forth neighbours since September 2001 but oh how their supporters enjoyed it. Their favourite Proclaimers music had them dancing off their seats in the end in marked contrast to the Pars players and support who left Easter Road totally devastated.
Derek Stillie was on great form for the Pars. Andius Skerla looked shattered at the end but he and Wilson provided security at the back where they ended up flanked by two inexperienced defenders who also put in credible efforts against tricky Riordan and Orman.
Unfortunately its points that count and they need to come soon!