Ian McCall no doubt had that sinking feeling when he saw a harmless ball drift into Dundee United’s box in the 90th minute. His side had already scorned enough chances to tie up an important three points before letting Hibs back into the game.
Dundee Utd 1, Hibs 2 - April 26, 2003
However, indecision was evident as substitute Jim Lauchlan chose to usher the ball back to Paul Gallacher instead of clearing the ball only to see it slip through the goalkeeper’s legs and Ian Murray followed through and tapped in.
United hardly helped themselves with the dreadful state of their pitch, which was deteriorating by the week. Not that it appeared to make much difference to either of the sides. Hibs had won but one game since they defeated United at Tannadice in the Scottish Cup in January and that was against Patrick Thistle. They had got only one other point and that was against United in the league at Easter Road.
But they seemed to have a point to prove as they pressed on United from the kick off and within five minutes their lead scorer, Tam McManus, could have got his 11th goal of the season when he got on the end of Janos Matyus’ head-down only to hit over from six yards.
Hibs had adjusted better to the bobbling ball on the rutted surface and in 17 minutes were unlucky not to go ahead when they twice hit the frame of the goal within a minute – a McManus free kick played low to the near post was hooked up onto the underside of the bar by Matyus. As the ball was cleared it was played back into the Hungarian who tried to control it with his chest and McManus following up behind drilled it side footed off the base of the post.
United could not catch the pace of the game as long as Charlie Miller stayed deep in midfield letting Russell Latapy to roam off the strikers. But against the run of play United won a corner in the 32nd minute and went ahead. Latapy’s corner was headed back by Derek Lilley and David McCracken had all the time he needed to balance himself to shoot in from 16 yards.
Two minutes later United could have doubled their lead. This time Andy Tod headed down but Jim Paterson let it bounce off his knee two yards out. A similar move saw Tod again set Paterson up in the 49th minute, but this time he blasted over from ten yards. But United were cutting Hibs open at will and Lilley was denied by Colgan in the 53rd minute after he broke through on his own.
But against the run of play Hibs won a penalty as McCracken pulled down McManus although the striker was drifting from goal. McManus snatched it from Murray to ensure he remained Hibs’ top scorer with this his 11th goal.
A yellow card for his celebration, did not worry him unlike a club fine the previous week, for a salacious tabloid tale of the Hibs player’s misbehaviour in a lap-dancing establishment.
More importantly he had given Hibs a lifeline which they were to ruthlessly exploit with the final kick of the ball.
Hibs: Colgan, Fenwick, Smith, Doumbe, Zambernardi, Jack, Matyus, Brebner, Murray, O’Connor, McManus