Goals may be something of a rarity for David Wotherspoon – but the Hibs kid is certainly the master of timing when it comes to finding the back of the net.
The midfield star marked his 100th game in a green and white shirt by claiming what proved to be the winner as Pat Fenlon claimed his first victory as Easter Road boss, a crucial William Hill Scottish Cup triumph over Cowdenbeath.
Incredibly, it was only his fourth for the Edinburgh club despite marking his debut with a goal which sparked a fightback to defeat St Mirren 2-1 in what was John Hughes’ first match in charge of the Hibees.
But even the two others in the intervening period have been of note, a strike which clinched the 2-0 win over St Mirren which sparked a run of five straight wins last season to extinguish the threat of relegation and a late equaliser against St Johnstone which helped extend that record to seven matches unbeaten.
However, Wotherspoon’s perfect timing hasn’t been confined to Hibs, the Perth-born youngster netting an injury-time equaliser for Scotland’s Under-21 side in a friendly against Sweden and then going one better in scoring the winner for Billy Stark’s side in November’s vital Euro qualifying clash with the Netherlands in Nijmegen.
Today, though, Wotherspoon admitted even he didn’t realise just how significant his first goal of the season would turn out as Hibs survived a nail-biting finale at Central Park to end the Blue Brazil pulling off a much touted Cup shock.
Wotherspoon, who turns 22 next Tuesday, appeared to have put the Capital outfit on easy street as he met Danny Galbraith’s near post cross to nod the ball beyond former Hibs Under-19 team-mate Thomas Flynn and put Fenlon’s team 3-1 up.
His joy, however, turned to nervous tension as Cowdenbeath’s Jon Robertson claimed a second for Colin Cameron’s Second Division leaders, ensuring 20 minutes of anxiety for the travelling fans before the final blast of referee Bobby Madden’s whistle brought them some blessed relief.
But as Wotherspoon today admitted, he and his team-mates now have to do it all over again this Saturday as they travel across the Forth once more to face the SPL’s basement side Dunfermline.
Only one point separates Hibs and the Pars, raising the very real prospect of the Edinburgh outfit propping up the rest come the end of the day, a scenario which doesn’t bear thinking about for Fenlon and his players.
However, Wotherspoon insisted the experience of finally grinding out a win – Hibs’ first in 11 matches in a run which goes back to late October – will stand him and his team-mates in good stead for East End Park.
He said: “I think everyone was saying we’d be turned over by Cowdenbeath, that we’d be the victims of the shock of the round so I feel we did very well to get the victory.
“To be honest, I felt quite relaxed going into the game, the boys in the changing room seemed upbeat and weren’t showing any signs of pressure. We knew what we had to do.
“It was ugly, but we needed to do that, to show the desire and bottle to get the win which was the main thing. In the last couple of years I’ve been up to Ross County and then away to Ayr United and not succeeded. We’ve done so this time which is obviously a much better feeling while it was great to get the manager his first win and for the fans who have been through a lot lately.
“Can it turn our season round? Well, it’s a step in the right direction. We’ve now got a win under our belts, something to build on.
“We’ve got a massive game on Saturday, Dunfermline are in the same position as us but we are ready and it’s obviously much better to be going into it with that winning feeling again.”
Wotherspoon agreed that, as always, Hibs had made the fifth round draw the hard way, conceding a goal in just 15 seconds as Cowdenbeath striker Greig Stewart evaded the challenge of Sean O’Hanlon as the defender slipped to thump the ball beyond goalkeeper Mark Brown.
While Cowden boss Cameron agreed it was exactly the start he wanted, he insisted that as happy as he was at that moment he didn’t immediately feel it was going to be his side’s day as he pointed out more than 89 minutes still remained.
His caution was well-placed as Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle fired Hibs in front before half-time with Wotherspoon extending that lead eight minutes after the interval. And Wotherspoon added: “It was a silly goal to lose but we always seem to shoot ourselves in the foot.
“Having said that, though, we got ourselves back up, responded very well and controlled the first half.
“We were all over them but we should never have gone a goal down after such a short period. There again, if we were going to lose the first goal far better we did so with 15 seconds gone than with 15 to go.
“I’m not renowned for my headers so I was delighted to get on the end of Danny’s cross. I felt he was going to clip the ball into the front post so I made my run there and managed to get above everyone and get a flick on it.” It should have been the goal which ended Cowdenbeath’s dream but Cameron’s players refused to throw in the towel, causing a major fright when Robertson cut the leeway with plenty of time to go.
Wotherspoon said: “We had to keep battling, to keep the pressure on them but after my goal we lost our tempo a bit, we started backing off and the strong wind which had been behind us in the first half seemed to strengthen which made it hard to get out.
“Our goalkeeper could hardly kick it to the halfway line, the pressure was on and we had our backs to the wall a bit.
“It was a bit of a struggle but we managed to get the win.”