Hibernian 4 Dunfermline Athletic 0Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Monday, 7th May 2012
This match was virtually over after 15 calamitous minutes during which Dunfermline gifted their opponents three goals. Despite playing some decent football, the Pars couldn’t find a goal to apply any pressure and their luck ran out completely when Hibs were given a farcical fourth late on with the ball not being even close to over the line.
For weeks this fixture had looked like it could be the relegation decider. However recent results had devalued the importance, with Dunfermline’s SPL survival now looking like a long shot. There was no sunshine on Leith, only rain, as Hibernian’s largest crowd of the season gathered, partly incentivised by the availability of cup final tickets.
It had been known for a couple of weeks that Alex Keddie would be suspended for this one, having picked up his sixth booking of the season in the match at Paisley. This clearly presented some selection difficulties but JJ went for the obvious solution in moving skipper Auzzy McCann into the middle at the back and bringing back Paddy Boyle at left back. There were no other surprises – McMillan and Dowie completed the back 4; Kerr, Hutton and Mason were in the midfield, Graham was wide on the left, and Hardie played somewhere between the midfield and Kirk the sole striker.
There were plenty attacking options on the bench with all 5 of Barrowman, Buchanan, Cardle, McDougall and Willis there, along with Fernandez and Kerr Young to give some defensive cover, although it seemed unlikely that the latter, who had just had his contract extended, would be allowed to make his debut in what could be a crucial game.
The Hibs’ line-up showed the results of Pat Fenlon’s ability to strengthen his team in the last transfer-window, in particular his work in the loan market, as no fewer than 3 of his starting eleven (McPake at the back, and the midfield duo of Soares and Claros) were on loan, but a 4th, loanee, the troublesome Leigh Griffiths, was also suspended. His place was taken by another recent signing, Eoin Doyle, who partnered Garry O’Connor in attack.
After the normal Hibbee pre-match broadcast of “500 miles” and “Glory to the Hibees”, oddly preceded by “Three Little Birds” which seems all the rage at this stage of the season, having also received an airing in Inverness in mid-week, the Pars kicked off defending the South Stand.
A couple of early long range efforts from Hardie (on target) and Hutton (well off) gave no indication of the disasters that were soon to befall the Pars, who found themselves 3 down within quarter of an hour.
First McMillan was penalised for what looked like a 50-50 challenge; Soares played the free-kick to the edge of the area, McPake knocked on and when Doherty lost his marker, and McCann was slow to react, the Irishman nodded across Smith and off the far post. 1-0 Hibs.
The Pars quickly won a corner, which Kerr took, but after a bout of head tennis, Dowie nodded over the top. Graham was next to show as the game continued its 100 mile per hour start, but his cross was overhit. Back came Hibs, and scored a second, with a similar combination of Doherty and dreadful defending being involved. Osbourne went down the right, slipped the ball inside to his full back who shook off Boyle with ease and when McCann failed to stop the pull-back from the bye-line, an unmarked Doyle only had to direct his header into the open goal. 2-0 Hibs.
Boyle tried to hit back but his right-footed effort was tame and easily saved by Brown in the Hibernian goal. And then, before you knew it, it was 3. Soares knocked the ball into the area, Hanlon escaped from McCann who hauled him back, and a penalty was awarded. Only a yellow card, as it wasn’t clear that Hanlon was getting the ball. O’Connor sent Smith the wrong way. 3-0.
If the Pars had to have any chance whatsoever, they needed a goal back. McMillan nearly obliged on two occasions – Hutton playing him in in 20 minutes but Brown stopped with his legs, and the same player got his head to Boyle’s cross 10 minutes later but again Brown saved. As is often the case when one side has a big lead early, the other team then enjoys most of the ball. Kerr and Hutton seemed to have plenty of time to get possession and play passes, with McMillan being particularly prominent overlapping on the right, but for all they looked good in the middle of the park, the final delivery left much to be desired – frequently being over-hit. Even when the pass was well-judged as was the case with Kerr’s ball in 38 minute sending Graham clear in the left channel, the Hibs defence, in the form of McPake, was able to time its challenge to perfection.
Of course Hibs continued to threaten on occasion, O’Connor taking advantage of a poor Dowie header, but with McCann covering, the big number 9 dribbled the ball out for a goal kick and then Smith made a decent first save in the 41st minute from Doyle when the defence in front of him was again carved open.
Half time: Hibs 3 Pars 0