Saints 1-2 Hibs
Report of match 18th August 2012
Reporter Stuart Gillespie
A terrific final half hour wasn't enough to stop Saints from sliding to their first defeat of the season to Hibs this afternoon.
Aside from the first 10 minutes or so we had a poor first half, summed up when Paul McGowan missed a penalty. After some changes at half time we saw a similar story - a decent start but then we lost another goal. However, we finally woke up, Steven Thompson scored and suddenly we were battering Hibs but couldn't grab a second.
It's a worrying result. If we want to make the top six then we should be beating teams like Hibs at home and certainly can't afford to lose to them. The performance in the first hour or so wasn't particularly good either. More worrying is the fact Darren McGregor got a serious injury and had to be stretchered off in the second half. There's no word yet how bad it is - hopefully he's just taken a knock rather than broken his leg or done his ligaments.
Jim Goodwin unsurprisingly came straight back into the side in place of Jon Robertson. Slightly more surprising was David van Zanten also found himself on the bench, with Marc McAusland taking his place. Aside from that it was the same team that started against Dundee last week. Hibs kept faith with Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Young, meaning Shefki Kuqi was only on the bench. Hard tackling Gary Deegan was in midfield alongside Jorge Claros, Paul Cairney and semi-regular scorer against Saints David Wotherspoon. Sadly the utterly horrendous Pa Kujabi was nowhere to be seen.
We, rather uncharacteristically, seemed to be switched on from the start and fired a few balls into the box, with Dougie Imrie and McGowan looking lively, but typically we seemed to allow things to open up a bit too much for Cairney to have a shot that thankfully was always going wide. Having watched McLean's goal of the season contender last week Thompson decided to try his own, although he was much closer in when he tried to lift the ball over Ben Williams and could only find the wrong side of the roof of the net. Thompson's unintentional flick on allowed McLean to tee up Parkin but after he'd worked an opening his shot was deflected behind.
So, Saints perhaps on top - you know what happens next. Wotherspoon launched the ball out of defence and McGregor was watching as it found Griffiths. He then looked to have recovered things by winning the ball, but it was merely for a fleeting moment before Griffiths took it back, roasted him and then smashed a shot across Craig Samson into the far side of the net. A goal from absolutely nothing and mainly down to some poor defending from McGregor. His defensive partner wasn't much better, Griffiths skinning Lee Mair a few minutes later before finding the same corner of the net, but as he was on the other side of the box this time there was no damage done as his shot flew into the side netting. In between times Goodwin got his first booking of the season so well done to whoever had 15 minutes on the sweepstake.
We rarely looked like finding an equaliser, although Hibs rarely looked like extending their lead. A brief flicker of hope appeared when McLean's shot was blocked by a defender and the officials stopped play, but it was only because Sam Parkin was offside. A few minutes later the decision did go in our favour as James McPake was deemed to have handled as he and Parkin jumped for the ball. However, our record from penalties isn't the best and it did for us again. At the same end as Graham Carey's penalty miss against Hearts in last season's Scottish Cup McGowan went for the same corner - but so did Williams and he pulled off a save that as good as ended our hopes of a result with little more than half an hour gone.
Hibs should have been further in front before the break - Samson saving Doyle's header from a Griffiths free-kick before the Irishman got everything wrong and put the ball well wide from Maybury's cross. Parkin's header from an Imrie corner was much better but still over the bar as the Saints players headed on for a half time chat - and hopefully a rollicking.
In truth there was no shortage of players that deserved to be hooked although it was a surprise to see Goodwin replaced with Robertson as the skipper rarely seems to be subbed. Graham Carey also found himself taken off with Gary Teale replacing him. We looked a bit better in attack, although Hibs were happy to let us have the ball, and McGowan sent a shot fizzing wide after he collected Imrie's throw-in. Doyle almost put the game out of sight when the ball broke to him just inside the box and his fierce strike was just too high.
Sadly a few minutes later we had to see Darren McGregor in a great deal of pain. We'd won a free-kick when Imrie lost his footing and referee Craig Charleston took pity on him, but when McGregor tried to get onto the end of Teale's delivery he hurt himself rather badly. It turned out to be the end of his afternoon as he had to be stretchered off and replaced by David Barron. Get well soon Darren. With some defensive uncertainty Hibs decided to try to force the issue and we inexplicably allowed Doyle to run across the box with barely a challenge before he passed to Griffiths, who withheld a heavy shove from someone to slam the ball into the bottom corner.
With the way we were playing that should have been that, but just minutes later we pulled ourselves back into things. A cross from the right evaded everyone, Imrie collected it at the far post, for once managed to stay on his feet and drilled in a cross (or was it a shot?) that Thompson was able to tap home. Suddenly it was game on - Teale going a wee bit far when he was booked for an attempted swipe. He almost made amends when he provided a teasing cross that Thompson just couldn't get to before Griffiths almost finished things when his free-kick cannoned off the bar. Williams then saved his side again when Imrie picked out Thompson with a terrific pass only for his shot to be brilliantly blocked by the Hibs goalie.
Ivan Sproule, who'd come on for the anonymous "Saint's released me because I'm too small" Cairney was caught late by McLean as he tried to burst away and the young Saint was rightly booked. Sproule is renowned for his pace but Kuqi isn't and he came on for Doyle with less than 10 minutes to go. Imrie had been getting loads of time and space down the left all day and provide another nice cross that found Robertson but his header was poor and flew well over. Griffiths also sent a shot over as he pushed for his hat-trick and should have done much better after some great work on the left from Sproule. Ross Caldwell then replaced him as Hibs tried to run the clock down.
Six minutes of stoppage time - it couldn't be as dramatic an ending again, could it? Well, it should have been - the ball falling to Marc McAusland whose shot was blocked by Williams before Thompson messed everything up after Teale returned the ball to the danger zone. Teale had a corner a minute later that looked poor but was actually almost perfect as the merest touch would have seen it fly into the net. His next cross was decent too but no one could get enough on it and that was that.
A defeat that probably should never have been, especially when you see how we played in the second half with Imrie in particular outstanding. If we can play like that for 90 minutes someone is going to get a doing - but if we play like we did for the first hour against someone better than Hibs we'll be in big trouble!
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|Competition: Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier Date: Saturday, 18th August 2012 Kick off: 15:00 Venue: Greenhill Road|
|1 - 2||Hibernian
Griffiths 15, 61
|4||Darren McGregor (Barron 59)|
|6||Jim Goodwin (Teale 46)|
|11||Graham Carey (Robertson 46)|
|23||David Barron (McGregor 59)|
|8||John Robertson (Carey 46)|
|21||Gary Teale (Goodwin 46)|
|2||David van Zanten|
|11||Paul Cairney (Sproule 75)|
|9||Leigh Griffiths (Caldwell 90)|
|10||Eoin Doyle (Kuqi 84)|
|29||Ross Caldwell (Griffiths 90)|
|32||Shefki Kuqi (Doyle 84)|
|17||Ivan Sproule (Cairney 75)|
|St. Mirren cards shown|
|17 mins||Jim Goodwin||Unsporting behaviour|
|62 mins||Gary Teale||Unsporting behaviour|
|82 mins||Kenny McLean||Unsporting behaviour|
|Hibernian cards shown|