Partick Thistle 0, Hibs 3: October 19, 2002
Garry O’Connor grabbed a double for Hibs as they secured their fourth league win a row with a comfortable victory over Partick.
Two minutes before half-time, O’Connor stopped the ball 30 yards from goal and shrugged off Scott Paterson. Not pausing to think, he span round to launch a tremendous shot into the top right-hand corner, leaving goalkeeper Kenny Arthur helpless.
It proved to be the vital breakthrough that was to continue Hibs’ excellent league form.
Bobby Williamson appeared to be turning round the tanker at Easter Road and the hard-to-please Hibs fans who only a month previous were chanting for the return of Franck Sauzee, were singing his name as they poured out into the streets of Maryhill at the final whistle.
Partick were a tough propostion with Paterson, Stephen Craigan and Derek Whyte a physically-uncompromising back-three.
And in the first half, their busy midfield of Jamie Buchan, Martin Hardie and Jamie Mitchell had the better of their sluggish opponents.
Fortunately for Hibs, Williamson’s tinkering with his defence was paying dividends, with Derek Townsley solid at the centre of defence. However, it was Yannick Zambernardi who was a crucial component on exemplary form; anticipating, challenging and quickly passing out of defence, and finding his man - something Paul Fenwick was significantly unable to do on the right.
Zambernardi also had the bonus of looking good on the ball. But he was to reveal an uglier side in the second half when he almost hospitalised Whyte.
Crucially, though, he saved Hibs from going behind in the eighth minute when Hardie sent Alan Archibald through. Nick Colgan got a hand to the ball only for it to tantalisingly drift across goal. Scott McLean should have buried it as he zoned in on the goalmouth, but somehow Zambernardi stretched out to block, with the ball ricocheting off the Jags forward and past the post.
Effectively, that was to be Thistle’s best chance of the game, and they were to pay for it. Townsley went off concussed in the 71st minute and Gary Smith settled in quickly with Hibs content to hit Thistle on the counter attack.
Craig James had a nervy start to the second half, but when he broke clear on the left in the 81st, his cross was suited for Paatelainen to glide in from the six-yard box.
Hibs were now on easy street, and O’Connor’s second was a delicious bit of skill as, two minutes from time, he chipped Craigan, rounded the defender and volleyed gently with his right foot past Arthur.
As the game drifted into added-on time O’Connor even had the audacity to hit the post, this time with his left peg.
Hibs: Colgan, Oramn, Zambernardi, Fenwick, James, Townsley, Brebner, Wiss, Murray, O’Connor, Paatelainen