I have to be honest I wasn’t too happy with what I had seen from Hibernian on Friday night, however on reflection I may have been too hard on Alan Stubbs’ men.
Thanks to watching the game again yesterday I can reflect on a very different performance to one which we have become used to but it was a performance nonetheless which gained a valuable three points.
The slicker, free passing variety of performance is definitely more pleasing on the eye and easier on the old ticker but claiming three points against the club that plays out of Ibrox is something I will never tire of.
Which is just as well because for the third time in a row we brushed the Govan lot aside with relative ease and their humbled hordes did not like it one bit.
There is no love-lost between the two sets of supporters and when we went one up things threatened to boil over in the stands.
We had the home fans chucking coins, full juice cups and throwing punches. A female Hibs fan had her glasses whipped off her face, a steward was punched to the ground and the atmosphere had turned from triumphant to tempestuous amid chaotic scenes.
This was no Valentine love affair but it was a victory for Hibernian whilst positive new boy Haris Vuckic couldn’t veil over the failing Gers.
Back on to the pitch and the heated atmosphere led to thirsty challenges from both sides but Miller, Boyd and Hutton were all lucky to escape the referee’s attention, over the 90 minutes, by landing elbows on to their opponents. Hutton’s, in particular was a cowardly attempt to pole-axe Fraser Fyvie.
We allowed them a lot of possession, territorially we surrendered but the resilience the defence showed when faced by attack after attack was, on reflection, admirable if uninspiring and gave us the platform to take home the points.
The Rangers had to bounce back from their Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Raith Rovers. They produced their best performance of the season and rallied for under-fire caretaker gaffer Kenny McDowall.
Kris Boyd, who consigned us to the play offs last year with a fantastic finish, could have scored within the first minute. Hibs defence was cut open and Big Boyd was in behind but he failed to trouble goalkeeper Mark Oxley.
I have no doubt that Boyd of last season and previous would have dispatched this chance with relative ease.
His extensive frame and angry demeanour is a brutal personification of the troubles that Rangers are going through just now.
Lacking in shape, venom in the stands, The Rangers are being gobbled up by a fat boy whilst goals are increasingly hard to come by for their (sports) direct striker and his faltering colleagues.
You can’t help but feel these two clubs are going in completely different directions, right now.
We are slowly rebuilding our club. Formatting a structure, implementing a strategy and fixing a mess that has seen us plummet in to the Championship.
The Ibrox side meanwhile lurch from one disaster to another and look like they are hanging on life support just hoping something will happen for the greater good of their club.
I was worried pre-match that this would be a match where Hibernian, who started the game as favourites, would fail to justify their current form. The favourites tag never sits well with Hibs but Friday saw a different side to the team, a difference that, perhaps, we haven’t seen in a Hibs team before.
During the game Rangers had a lot of the ball, Boyd’s chance was followed up later in the match by an effort, which was cleared off the line by Fontaine, from Miller and a header from Faure which was dipping under the crossbar until Oxley got his hand to it to tip it over the bar.
For all their possession though and the aforementioned chances the game passed with relative ease for the Hibernian players. However, as I say, that is only on reflection and the chance to re-watch the game.
I stood next to my fellow supporters and there were many exasperated gasps and worried shouts as Rangers piled on the pressure. Pressure which ultimately came up short and decisively lacked any cutting edge.
We seemed to go long in search of space in behind Rangers full backs an area which we have exploited very well in our previous three games against them. Their full backs – Sebastian Faure and Lee Wallace on Friday night – are encouraged to get forward but when they do they very rarely track back. In the case of Lee Wallace, once Scotland’s finest left back, the sooner he can get himself out of Ibrox the better.
At the age of 27 he looks out of shape and completely unfit. He ambles forward, meanders back, his crossing is poor and he sadly looks a shadow of his former self. Alas Wallace who was often the start of Rangers’ attacks failed to threaten the Hibs rearguard but on other hand he was rarely tested, defensively, as Hibs long balls – out of defence – were often mishit or launched in to an area where Rangers could clear and start another attack.
Stubbs can rightly claim that he was pleased with the result, the performance may have irked some Hibs fans but three points is three points no matter how you get them. The way in which Fontaine and Hanlon stood up to the bombardment of the home side is a credit to the type of players they are.
I was surprised by Watson’s inclusion ahead of Jordon Forster (Jordon is maybe still feeling the effects of his injury and subsequent appendix op) but he played well alongside the more accustomed centre half pairing.
The 3-5-2 formation had worked so well for us at Ibrox previously, throwing Rangers off guard and allowing us a solid base from we could provide service for our creative, attacking players to go and win the game. The change in formation may not have been quite as cavalier this time around but it was most certainly just as productive.
Aesthetically I would prefer to see our flair in every game but undoubtedly I would take another 19 two nil victories like this between now and the end of the season.
In saying that individual brilliance was what ultimately won us the game. Scott Allan’s pass to Jason Cummings in the lead up to Scott Robertson’s opener was a wonderful pass but this was bettered by an exquisite ball from Fyvie – who exchanged passes with Stevenson before he hit the ball first time as it dropped over his shoulder and past the despairing Lee Robinson.
A wonderful counter attacking goal which came 23 seconds after Rangers had claimed for a penalty in the Hibs area. Oxley gathered the ball before Boyle, Malonga, Fyvie and Stevenson combined to score a goal that Barcelona would have been proud of.
Stevenson ran gleefully towards the Hibs support, celebrating as raucously as the jubilant travelling section and no one deserved a goal like that more.
As with all the fans in the away end, he has enjoyed the highs of winning trophies and beating Hearts but has also endured the terrible times of relegation and the devastating effect that brutal Butcher and Calderwood the Clown had on our club.
His face told a million stories as he ran to the small corner of just over 950 Hibees he, like all of us, couldn’t have been happier.
I’ve often been hard on Wee Lewy. He’s a seven out of ten every week and my argument is, at a club like Hibs, we need players who are 8’s or 9’s but this season he has upped his game, he’s learning from great coaches and is finally playing alongside players that can help him improve his game.
He’s a likeable character, quiet and unassuming but will always talk at official club events and is never scared to put his body on the line when he steps out on to that pitch wearing the famous green shirt.
Just as Kris Boyd personifies Rangers Lewis Stevenson typifies the true grit and determination all the Hibs players are beginning to show in recent weeks.
The personification of Hibs performances have been more aligned to the style and panache of Scott Allan with a frailty of seasons gone past a lingering characterisation of our failings but possibly they may need to rely on a more collective unit if they are to claim a season in the Championship as a success.
This time of the season is all about winning – it’s how you get promoted, it’s how you win trophies and if we are all celebrating come the end of May I don’t think we will really care how we have played.