Hibernian sealed their place in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup with an expected victory against Arbroath.
Dja Djedje, an own goal from Jambo loanee Liam Gordon and a good strike from Dylan McGeouch seen Hibs progress but it was far from straightforward against a good side in the Red Lichties.
The visitors took the lead through Kieran Stewart. It was a great goal and the former Saint Johnstone player will be delighted with his effort. It came after superb link up play between Dylan Carreiro and Stewart down the left before the winger crashed a shot high in to the net.
Hibs ‘keeper Mark Oxley, given that he seemed to lower his body thus making a bigger target, will possibly be left to rue his positioning but it was a venomous strike from Stewart nonetheless. If Oxley had kept a higher body position he may well have stopped the strike alas Hibernian reacted positively.
The tie was, in the end, a tale of two Dylans. Especially after referee Andrew Dallas had tried to stamp his name, for all the wrong reasons, over proceedings.
Arbroath’s Dylan, Carreiro, was at the heart of everything his team done and you can see why he’s highly rated at his parent club Dundee. He certainly wasn’t out of place playing against more well known names. Causing Hibs problems with his trickery and directness he looked more of a threat than Dundee United new boy Simon Murray.
Hibs’ Dylan, McGeouch, a loanee himself sparked the game in to life when he replaced Liam Craig just before the hour mark. McGeouch sealed the game with an expert finish from the edge of the box following a neat flick from Ivorian Dja Djedje. His quick feet and ball control bamboozling the Arbroath defence before finding an opening and arrowing a shot in to the net.
Hibs finally put paid to their League Two opponents but the Gayfield men could head north knowing that they had given the Hibees a tough time.
Red Lichties earn respect
Allan Moore and his team deserve all the respect for coming and giving it a right good go. They defended manfully with two banks of four, perhaps a bit narrow at times but they had a job to do and for the most part thwarted their hosts. Midfield was courageous and creative in equal measures with the strength of Hunter and Little complementing the pacy and direct duo of Stewart and Carreiro. In Murray and Paul McManus they have a potent League Two strike force, 25 goals between them so far this season.
Simon Murray recently signed for Dundee United and the flare haired forward showed glimpses of his ability but it was the old head in Paul McManus who impressed me more out of the two.
He showed his experience in coming short and offering his support, jumped well competing for headers against the solid centre back pairing of Hanlon and Fontaine, whilst being prepared to run in to the channels looking for a number of well-executed through balls.
The 32-year-old boasts a number of lower league clubs on his CV but with 10 goals in 19 starts so far this season I can see why he has been a hit for the Angus side. The more prolific Murray will, I am sure, be learning a lot from his strike partner before he heads to Tannadice in the summer.
Over the piece Hibernian more than deserved their place in the draw for the Quarter Finals but Arbroath added to the spectacle by being comfortable on the ball, positive in possession and assertive when defending.
They did tire as the game went on as Hibs started to stretch the game more. Allan, McGeouch and Cummings all found more and more space in which they could exert an authority allowing Hibs to see out the game in a professional manner.
Young talent nurtured not nullified
Sam Stanton, who replaced Allan with little under quarter of an hour remaining, also took the game to the visitors probing and pushing when on the ball. He is young boy with a lot of talent and a player I think we’ll see a lot more of in the coming weeks. No one has doubted this boy’s ability but I feel he has been looked after a lot better this season.
He was heaped with a lot of responsibility last year along with Jason Cummings and Alex Harris they were expected, by our previous management and some supporters, to save our season.
It was never going to happen thus their progress was nullified and as a result their confidence was shot to pieces. Strike sensation Cummings has reacted the best but Harris and Hibee-supporting Stanton required a different approach.
Stubbs handled the situation very well and has taken both boys out of the firing line. Allowing them to progress as young boys should. Earlier in the season he kept them in and around the team, giving them minutes but when he seen that they were still suffering from the effects of last season and subsequent relegation he acted with a care and understanding towards his young stars.
For such a young manager, his man-management skills appear to be almost perfect. In and around the training centre the atmosphere, compared to last season, is night and day but it’s the way he has constructively approached every difficult situation that gives everyone at the club a renewed sense of vigour.
Sending Harris, 20, on loan to Dundee for the last 6 months of this season will be the making of this lad. Having watched Harris progress through the youth teams I know he has ability in abundance unfortunately for him it just hasn’t been nurtured correctly. He will be watched regularly by Hibernian scouts and his progress will be monitored as with any loanee but he will be pushing for a start upon his return to Leith.
Stanton is the same, an intelligent football player with a charismatic assuredness that possibly belies his shy and retiring persona off the field. The quiet spoken, local lad, has performed regularly for the Development Team scoring goals, creating chances, working hard and encouraging his younger colleagues. Stanton though, is only 20 years old himself.
Approaching his 50th game for his boyhood heroes at such a young age is something to be celebrated but under the tutelage of Stubbs and his management team I am sure both he and Harris alike could emulate teammate Lewis Stevenson (congrats to Lewy) in making 250 appearances for the Hibees.
If they continue to mirror the clubs positive reaction to adversity then they will progress in line to where they and the club should be.
Not too many of Stanton’s matches or even Lewis’ for that matter will be regarded as memorable but with time and age on their side hopefully these young lads will lay claim to a triumphant trophy like Stevenson did when Man of the Match against Kilmarnock in our League Cup success.
The Holy Grail is still on for now and in the quarters Hibernian will play the winner of the tie between Spartans and Berwick Rangers. They replay on Tuesday week (17th) at Berwick’s Shielfield venue. The two teams drew one each at Ainslie Park on Saturday and now the Capital’s second club will have the chance to face their more illustrious neighbours.
Hibernian have trained at Ainslie Park and the Development Team play their home league matches at the home of Spartans. No doubt Spartans would relish the chance of playing at Edinburgh’s biggest stadium.
They have a fantastic set up and their community club is thriving. Ironically, as Hibernian move slowly towards being more of a community-supporter based club their Lowland League neighbours are showing them how it should be done in that respect.
Obviously a Capital City clash in the quarter final would be a memorable event but they have to defeat Borderers Berwick and with a day out at Hampden, as reward for the victors, I am sure whoever we play will be well up for it.
The last cup quarter final when we played an Edinburgh rival was against Hearts en route to the aforementioned League Cup final.
That’s a little under a month away though and before that we face three must win fixtures in the Championship. Trips to Ibrox and Recreation Park sandwich a home fixture against Ian Murray’s Dumbarton.
We must continue to move on at pace, picking up valuable results and gaining momentum before we enter the play-off games in May. Thirteen league games remain before the crucial end of season matches and above all else everything should be geared to being best of the rest and gaining promotion back to the Premier League.
Everything else will take care of itself.