This is how it feels after beating a much fancied favourite at Hampden in the semi final of a cup …….. bloody BRILLIANT !! Like most I suspect, I travelled through to Glasgow more in hope than expectation but the boys in green and white were exceptional to a man and thoroughly deserve to look forward to the final.
Jack Ross made a couple of changes to his starting eleven after what seems like yonks since we last played a competitive match. In came Cadden and young Josh Campbell at the expense of Gogic, who was on the bench and Murphy who didn’t feature at all. Setting up as a 3-5-2, Boyle seemed to be given freedom to roam in supporting Nisbet up front and boy did he enjoy that role.
With the majority of the crowd there to support the Rangers, there was still a cracking atmosphere amongst the Hibs support, singing throughout and generally having a great time. Of course, the fans in blue (or should that be orange?) made plenty of noise themselves when singing their repertoire of ‘football songs’ but in the end, they were quick to walk away towards the final whistle.
In a frantic start to the game, Paul Hanlon was booked inside the first minute for a hefty challenge on Aribo. Our captain still had eighty nine minutes to play but as time would prove it didn’t stop him giving full commitment to our cause. A couple of minutes later, Joe Newell also saw yellow, Aribo again being fouled, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the foul alone might have meant just a stern finger wagging from Kevin Clancy, but Joe also kicked the ball away and the Clancy wasn’t having that.
Both teams were going at it and as the ten minute mark arrived, Hibs took the lead after Goldson conceded a corner. Newell’s delivery arrived at the far post where the ball struck Tavernier and fell to Martin Boyle who saw McGregor go down to dive and neatly lifted the ball over him and into the net. It was a cracking start for Hibs, and no more than their early attacking play deserved. Five minutes later, Morelos brought a save out of Macey but in truth it was a poor effort and easily saved.
The Rangers were pushing to get back into things and McGinn conceded a corner around the twenty minute mark. Macey collected the cross and started a move that saw Hibs sweep down the park to double their lead. Marin Boyle was set up by a wonderful through ball from Nisbet and the flying winger blasted the ball past a helpless McGregor to stun the Rangers support. In reaction, Arfield fired in a long range effort, but it didn’t trouble Macey who collected easily.
Once again, the Rangers tried to get back into the game, but Hibs were resolute in their defending and afforded them very few clear sights on goal. One or two efforts did come in but were either over the bar, wide of goal or, impressively, charged down by the Hibs defenders. Even though Hibs were facing these challenges on their own goal they were still very much in the hunt for a goal of their own and one arrived some seven minutes before the break. Boyle, who had been running the Rangers ragged, was cleaned out in the box by Steven Davis. After dusting himself off, Boyle smashed the ball down the middle as McGregor dived to his right.
We Hibs fans were in heaven by this point but took a dent to our confidence when Porteous, who had been outstanding throughout, sclaffed a clearance allowing Arfield to fire home from around ten yards. Needless to say, that goal got the Rangers fans roaring their side on whilst we Hibs fans heaved sighs of relief when first Goldson and then Balogun sent headed efforts over the bar.
It was always going to be the case that the Rangers would come at us after the half time break and come at us they did but once again sound defending and throwing bodies on the line caused chances to be blocked and/or repelled. Around the hour mark, Doig was forced off through injury and Lewis Stevenson entered the fray with the minimum of fuss and maximum of concentration for the job at hand. The Rangers were starting to panic by now and made the first of a host of changes, bringing Sakala into play in place of Ryan Kent. I’ll be honest, that change baffled me because Kent had looked a threat throughout. If that change baffled me, one of the changes made five minutes later by the Rangers had me thoroughly confused and somewhat delighted. Hagi for Arfield was fair enough but Jack for Aribo had me smiling big time because Aribo was by far their most dangerous player. Still, who cares about their thought processes?
In truth, the Rangers were largely dominating possession, but I confess I enjoyed the fact that, every time they passed sideways or backwards, the howls from the largely orange coated fans gave me huge satisfaction. We were repelling them with a degree of ease, and they did not like that one little bit.
Ten minutes from time, Porteous had to be replaced due to injury and Darren McGregor came into the game. For that last ten minutes and the five added by Clancy, big Daz gave no quarter and took no prisoners. At the same time, Christian Doidge replaced Kevin Nisbet and got a massive cheer from the Hibs support, delighted that the big man was back in action.
When Cadden and Doidge started taking the ball to the corner flag to run the clock down, Barisic was so infuriated, he took a swipe at Cadden but obviously the red card it should have been was only yellow. Into time added on and the Rangers were still trying to figure out how to breach the Hibs defence and they had a great chance to do so when the ball fell kindly to Goldson, but the big defender fired his effort miles over the bar with the goal gaping in front of him.
As Kevin Clancy blew for full time the Hibs players rejoiced on the park and the Hibs supporters were going bananas in the stands. After the obligatory hand shakes the players and all of those on the Hibs bench made their way to ‘Sir David Gray’ corner to join in and dance with a delighted support.
Every single one of them deserve huge credit
Macey – Big Matt had a couple of routine saves but nothing of great note, protected as he was by the ten in front of him. I was delighted to see him, on numerous occasions, come off his line to collect high crosses into our box.
McGinn – What a fabulous pro Paul is. Gave his all and dealt well with the tricky Ryan Kent whilst still managing to get forward on occasion. There was a couple of times defensively that he came in behind our central defenders and helped clear away any danger.
Porteous – Ryan was immense but for that one expensive sclaff. If Morelos was trying to wind him up it didn’t work as the portly Columbian was hardly involved in the game.
Hanlon – As if to answer those critics who suggested his new contract was undeserved, Paul led the team brilliantly tonight and for my money showed exactly why the club value him so much. Even with that early yellow he played without fear and hardly put a foot wrong.
Cadden – I’ll be honest and say I’ve not really been sold on him so far, but he was excellent and worked super hard both in attack and defence.
Doyle-Hayes – Jake was back to his early season form tonight and run himself into the ground. His use of the ball was impressive, and his reading of the game was top notch.
Campbell – If there’s a blade of grass on the Hampden pitch that Josh didn’t cover then I’d like to see it. For a young lad with such little experience, he looked like playing the Rangers at Hampden was something he’d not worry about.
Newell – I’ve said before that I think there are games when Joe is invisible but that was certainly not the case tonight. When he fired into Aribo after just three minutes you could tell he meant business.
Doig – For me, Josh had his best game in a while and certainly had Tavernier defending more often than he’s used to. He and Newell pretty much had that side of the park well under control.
Nisbet – I’ve heard and read all the comments about Kevin being lazy and huffy and to be fair I’ve agreed with some of that but there can be no accusations tonight because he put in a good shift both on and off the ball and his pass for the second goal was inch perfect.
Boyle – With the air miles he’s put in recently it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d been a bit lethargic but instead, he delighted me by playing ninety five minutes of high octane football. Three goals is obviously impressive but I was also impressed when, on one occasion, the Rangers broke swiftly and Boyler raced back seventy yards at speed to thwart that attack in the left back area. Easily my man of the match but every one of his team mates deserves huge plaudits.
Stevenson – It must give Jack Ross enormous pleasure to know that if Josh gets injured or loses form, he’s got the always reliable Lewis Stevenson to step in, as he did tonight to good effect.
McGregor – I bet Morelos muttered ‘Aw Naw’ in Spanish when he spotted Daz coming on to replace Porteous. Daz did the job as he always does when called upon.
Doidge – Fantastic to see the big fella back in business and impressive to see two opponents bouncing off him when he was protecting the ball at the corner flag.
Jack Ross – Maybe those who rattle on about ‘big games’ and ‘bottling it at Hampden’ will take some time off now. Jack deserves as much credit as the players because his tactics and team selection were spot on.
The referee – Kevin Clancy got busy early with his cards and whilst I’m a tad miffed that numerous fouls on Hibs players were not fouls in his eyes, I have to grudgingly concede that by his own (low) standards he had a decent game.
Small beer stuff, but I agree with your comments on Newall. He played well (as obviously they all did) but I thought his reaction at full time was really telling: he was going mental, charging towards the Hibs support, and it clearly meant a lot to him. We'll need that commitment and vigour in the final.
But as I say, that's less important than the overall game. As others have said, it's these days that make up for the hard times!
Spot on as always Jonnyboy- wasn't a failure in green and white today they were outstanding to a man and all the subs slotted in and had an impact too - mind u when u have legends like Daz Lewy and Big Doidgey to come on no surprises there - what a day
Good report as ever, not a red card (IMO) as you point out, think it was a push rather than a swipe (?) - difficult to fault anyone in a Hibs team that reaches a final, particularly when playing against one of the OF ... Rangers looked like a team without a game plan, was surprised how poor they were ...
Watched the game back on Premier Sports this afternoon .... was able to pick up on a load of stuff my 61 year old eyesight and not being able to look at times missed at the actual game.
Macey .... 7 .... He actually had not that much to do .... He was criticised by Craigan for not saving the goal, but I don't see how, he had practically no chance with it. That aside he was pretty solid.
McGinn ..... 8 .... The number of times he filled in in the centre of our box reminded me of David Murphy .... you can't get better praise than that .. possibly his best game in a Hibs shirt.
Porteous .... 8 .... He loses one point for his scaffed clearance that lead to their goal ... that aside the guy was a colossus.
Hanlon ... 9 .... Who says this guy can't be a captain, he was outstanding and lead by example throughout.
Doig .... 8 ... Got right up on Tavernier throughout, did his best to get forward and actually defended pretty well too.
Doyle - Hayes .... 8 .... Along with Newell made their midfield work for absolutely everything, back to something like his early games for us.
Newell .... 8 .... Worked hard and looked like a team player, something he isn't always good at ... possibly the calmest Hibs player on the park bringing the ball down and playing simple passes.
Cadden .... 8 .... Kept them occupied down the right, absolutely diligent in his defensive duties and worked as hard as anybody.
Campbell .... 8 .... Ran and ran to keep their back 4 and midfield occupied, I thought he was tiring a bit in the last 20 minutes but he stuck at it, a great effort by the youngster.
Boyle ........... 10 ........... Everybody was super, but a hat trick against the sticky buns ..... 10 all day long
Nisbet .... 9 .... His best game in ages, did some super work outside of the box and his turn an pass to set up Boyle's 2nd goal was sublime.
Stevenson .... 6 ..... He got lost more than once, but I noticed at the end of the game he seemed to be complaining to his team mates about some sort of issue, perhaps injured soon after coming on.
Daz .... 5 ... He wasn't involved too much, but after Porteous went off they made more chances in the box and he nearly put Macey in all sorts of bother with an awful back pass ... sorry Daz, still luv ya big guy.
Doidge .... 6 .... Won a fair few headers, but by that time we were more bothered about defence than attack so there wasn't really anybody in close support to feed off him.