BUBBLES were being blown rather than burst in the Hibs dressing-room at East End Park after a three-goal spurt in nine minutes saw them blow away their bleak run of form.
Yet until Derek Riordan scored their first goal in the 66th minute, there was an ominous sense about Hibs’ performance that they might be heading for their fourth defeat in a row. Indeed the young striker, who had captivated the SPL before a slump that saw him only score one goal in his last eight games before this encounter, seemed to have had all confidence sapped out of him when he rounded Derek Stillie in the 56th minute only to slap the ball carelessly off the back-covering Andy Tod.
But ten minutes later he made amends, rising to head Hibs level.
Another two were quickly added by 17-year-old substitute Stephen Fletcher. Initially, Hibs’ attack still had as much bite as a limp biscuit, although Garry O’Connor looked sharp when he rounded Andrius Skerla on the byeline in the 26th minute only to be hacked down. The Lithuanian was lucky not to be booked, but as Riordan fired in the free kick Gary Caldwell could only glance his header off target.
Stephen Whittaker endured an uncomfortable spell when first he was booked for a foul on Darren Young, then was caught out of position as Dunfermline broke away to take the lead. Simon Donnelly raced down the left, Gary Smith was pulled out of the centre but failed to put in a proper challenge, allowing Donnelly to roll a pass for Barry Nicholson to step up and crack in a lethal shot from 20 yards into bottom corner of Simon Brown’s goal.
Dunfermline were deservedly ahead, but Hibs boss Tony Mowbray made aggressive half time changes as he switched to a three-man attack.
There was more fluency in Hibs’ play as exhibited when Stephen Glass put Riordan through in he 56th with a perfect long pass. Two months earlier, Riordan would have calmly slotted it in after rounding Stillie – but ten minutes later he had regained composure, with Glass starting the move again. His pass to Whittaker out wide was played in first time for Riordan to connect for his 19th goal of the season. Three minutes later, Hibs swept upfield again and David Murphy’s cross saw O’Connor challenge Stillie. The goalkeeper failed to hold it and Fletcher picked up the loose ball to knock it in.
Dunfermline began to stagger and Hibs had them reeling in the 76th when Riordan’s ball out to Murphy was cut in for Fletcher to control and turn in. Hibs were rampant now and when Fletcher put Riordan through in the 81st minute for the fourth, he turned Skerla twice before slipping the ball past Stillie. Both the scorers could have got a hat-trick as Hibs surged forward leaving Dunfermline crumpled on their new carpet.