EOIN Doyle’s 15th minute goal was enough to sent Hibs marching into the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup this afternoon.
It was the former Sligo Rovers’ star’s second goal in the competition and his first at Easter Road. And although Killie mounted a furious late onslaught, Hibs stood strong to make the last eight.
Hibs boss Pat Fenlon pitched new signings Matt Doherty and Pa Kujabi straight into action, the pair joining last week’s arrivals James McPake and Tom Soares in the starting line-up while Roy O’Donovan took a seat on the bench while Graham Stack returned in goal after a four-match absence.
There was a real sense of purpose to Hibs from the first whistle and they had the ball in the net after just five minutes. Garry O’Connor’s ball released Tom Soares who was allowed to run a full 50 yards before unleashing a shot which Killie goalkeeper Cammy Bell just managed to turn round the post.
From the resultant corner skipper James McPake powered home a header only for referee Iain Brines to award the Ayrshire side a foul for a bit of pushing.
A terrific tackle from Michael Nelson prevented Lewis Stevenson’s reverse pass from finding O’Connor but there was nothing Killie could do to stop Doyle opening the scoring in the 15th minute. Soares’ run did the damage, the on-loan Stoke City midfielder cutting the ball back for his striker to send a right-footed shot beyond Bell.
Killie had been knocked right out of their stride by Hibs and it took them until Graham Stack got his gloves dirty, the goalkeeper diving low to his left to touch James Dayton’s low shot aside before Paul Heffernan headed a Danny Racchi cross wide from a good position.
A scintillating run down the left flank by Kujabi brought the home fans to their feet, the little full-back presenting Doyle with a half-chance but his angled shot was blocked by Bell.
Killie might have been second best throughout that first half, but Kenny Shiels’ side still carried a threat as shown by a long-range effort from Racchi which Stack did well to turn aside.
The Rugby Park outfit were certainly seeing more of the ball, pushing Hibs onto the back foot as they attempted to test an Easter Road defence which has been brittle all season but the hour mark came and went without the visitors managing to get an equaliser.
And other than a late Racchi effort which Stack shovelled round the post, that’s the way it remained despite a Killie onslaught which tested the nerve of all in green and white.