THE Hibernian hierarchy have apparently been growing frustrated by the amount of media focus on their midfielder Scott Allan but they will, surely, have no qualms about the positive press generated by his appearance yesterday.
Starting on the bench for the second weekend in a row, he was greeted by some boos when he replaced Marvin Bartley. His manager, Alan Stubbs, claimed that they came from the 153 away fans but whether it was goading from the Montrose contingent or a product of annoyance from some Hibs fans, they were very quickly drowned out by rapturous applause from the majority of the home support.
His introduction was the spark the Championship side needed to forge ahead and wrap up the tie. Already one goal ahead at that time, they were making fairly hard work of killing off a side who had finished bottom of the pile last term. While Paul Hegarty’s part-timers rarely threatened, apart from a second-minute penalty claim when Ross Campbell went down after goalkeeper Mark Oxley had charged out, and, eventually, a 71st minute Graham Webster shot which found the target but not the net, their hard work and dogged defending meant they were making it tricky to add to promising 18-year-old Scott Martin’s 32nd-minute strike.
He had latched on to an Alex Harris pass to slot beyond Ross Salmon but too often in the opening 45 minutes they were sloppy with the passing and less than diligent with their decision making. That was pointed out to them at half-time but their manager, who was delighted to be ahead but unhappy that they had not been more energetic and penetrating against a side with their backs to the wall.
“We had to be patient and pick the right moments but we were a bit hesitant, I thought,” said Stubbs, who eventually decided to send on his primary playmaker in the 65th minute. “We always intended to give Marvin at least 45 minutes and we were able to stretch that out. When we brought Scott on Montrose were beginning to tire and gaps started to appear and when you have ability like Scott he has the opportunity to exploit that and he did. When he came on, we all know what he can do and I thought he looked sharp and dynamic when he came on so that was pleasing. He gave us a little bit of a lift. As a footballer you always want to do your talking on a football pitch. That’s the place to do it.
“I thought the cheers were from our fans and the reception he got when he was warming up was really good and the boos were 100 per cent from the Montrose fans and they were drowned out by the cheers from our fans and they obviously like quality players and Scott Allan falls into that bracket.”
His most tangible contribution came just six minutes after he came on and the strike was greeted by warm celebrations by his team-mates who showed their camaraderie.
By that stage Montrose were trying to keep things respectable. They knew that getting past their Leith hosts to secure a place in the next round of the League Cup was always a big ask and after that second goal it was a forlorn hope, but they stuck at it.
But with nine minutes remaining their defence was breached again. It was a ball hooked back into the box and birthday boy Jason Cummings showed skill and composure to chest it down and volley it on the turn into the net.
“We are disappointed with the last 20 minutes, but it’s quality players you are playing against,” said Montrose boss Paul Hegarty.
“The difference between full-time players and us was shown, but we won’t play Hibs every week and we can take a lot of positives out of the game. For an hour we did ever so well and nullified them in that first hour.”
He praised the patience of the home support, saying that played a part in helping the team overwhelm their guests in the end. He said they could have grown edgy and transmitted that angst onto the players but instead they simply sat back and waited for their team to deliver and in the end the patience paid off.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, Bartley (S Allan 65), Stanton (Sinclair 83), Fyvie, Martin, Harris (Shaw 74), Cummings. Subs not used: Reguero, Dunsmore, Crane, L Allan.
Montrose: Salmon, Ferguson, Reoch, Allan, Steeves, Johnston, McCord (Milne 81), Watson, Webster, Campbell (Reid 59), Fraser. Subs not used: Kenneth, Masson, McLeod, Wilcox, Butter.
Referee: J Beaton. Attendance: 5,933