Sunday, 23 October 2011

High Best-of-Five for Hibees

No bambooing, please ...

Hopperational details

Date & Venue: Saturday 22 October at St Mirren Park, the newest ground in the top tier in Scotland
Result: St Mirren 2 Hibernian 3
Competition: Scottish Premier League
Hopping: First part of a weekend McDouble.

This match in one sentence
St Mirren ultimately paid the price for a calamitous start in a helter-skelter game full of goalmouth incident.

So what?
St Mirren hang on to 6th place but it is a very congested lower half of the table and that is only 4pts from the bottom.  Hibernian climb to 9th.

The drama unfolds
Both teams took to the field with what looked like Pizza ad leaflets but turned out to be Red Cards for Racism.  The announcements that both clubs were against racism and sectarianism were applauded warmly by a crowd of about 4300.

Here's a scene-setter clip - St Mirren are in black-and-white.

The spirit of warmth and friendliness must have affected St Mirren keeper Craig Samson.  After 7 minutes, he dithered with the ball - Hibs had pressed the St Mirren backline high up the pitch to force a backpass - and Leigh Griffiths robbed him to score an absolute gift of a goal that will consign Samson to the Dodgy Keeper DVDs of the future.  0-1

Not this time, but Leigh Griffiths ended up with two goals
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon talked in his programme notes about a collective responsibility to play passing football in the Scottish game.  Hibs took a more pragmatic view that their opponents might not be comfortable or good enough and they kept pressing.  It was 17 minutes before St Mirren threatened with a header from a free kick, and about 25 minutes before they had their first real chance.  #9 Steven Thompson (not #8 Steven Thomson) volleyed, but straight at the keeper.  However, the home side gradually grew in confidence, with Thomson (not Thompson) finding plenty of space for right-wing crosses, and the game turned right round just after the half-hour.

Paul McGowan’s first goal after 33 minutes was a towering header.  1-1

Two minutes later he reacted first after a blocked shot.  2-1

Hibs reacted well, though, and drew level very soon, as centre-back #5 Sean O’Hanlon (not #4 Paul Hanlon) out jumped Thomson (not Thompson) to plant a header back across the goal into the corner.  2-2

The craziness continued.  Just before half-time, Hibs’ Garry O’Connor sent a high but speculative flick bouncing into the danger area.  Strike partner Griffiths reacted first and seemed to have all the time in the world to pick his spot.  The St Mirren defence had been asleep.  2-3 at half-time

It was a lively start to the second half.  The introduction of Nigel Haisselbank for Thompson (not Thomson) went down well with the crowd, and St Mirren had plenty of possession, and plenty of territory, to keep the fans supportive and positive.  They won a number of set pieces which needed some last-ditch defending.  Double-scorer Griffiths was taken off, and Hibs picked up some yellow cards.  They could no longer hold the ball up front, so it kept coming back.  Thompson (not Thomson ’cos he had gone off, remember, now pay attention) showed good strength in leading the home front line.  However, Hibs held on, defending so deep that much of their work was done in the area, and time started to run out.

With 10 minutes to go, Hibs sub Akpo Sodje could have scored a fourth on the break but it went high and wide.  Then Paul Hanlon (not O’Hanlon) made a superb block at the other end to prevent the equaliser.  Jim Goodwin’s long shot from the rebound skimmed the bar.  Junior Agogo might have got that fourth on the break for Hibs but shot straight at Sansom.  In the final frantic minutes, St Mirren had at least four more chances.  When Jeroen Teselaar’s shot hit the side netting after 94 minutes, Hibs had won it.  Immense frustration for the home faithful, but immensely entertaining for the passing neutral.  Final score 2-3

A snippet from the programme
“Following Scotland’s failure to qualify for a major tournament for the 7th time in a row, everyone associated with the beautiful game in our nation needs to examine themselves to identify exactly what they are contributing to the state of our game.  Long ball, kick and rush football over the years has dragged our game down a peg or two, where we regularly see our teams struggling to compete in Europe.  We need a revolution to take place, where we all commit to modelling the best football practices in the world in order to progress our game in the modern era.  We cannot afford to be an analogue nation in a digital world.” 
Strong words from St Mirren manager Danny Lennon. 

What I learned today
St Mirren, in the town of Paisley, takes its name from an Irish missionary who founded the community that later became an abbey.

Lots of statues in Paisley - this man is NOT a groundhopper (we don''t roll programmes like that)
What Next?
Celtic v Aberdeen on Sunday afternoon.

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