Inverness 1, Hibs 2: September 11, 2004
AN entertaining match at Pittodrie was settled by a goal in either half from Derek Riordan.
Hibs fans, who travelled to the Granite City while the Caledonian Stadium was being rebuilt, were delighted to see the league return of skipper Ian Murray after his long injury-enforced absence.
Drafted in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Colin Murdock, Murray did not look fully fit and was not totally match sharp, but still produced a classy display. Such was his importance to Hibs that his mere presence on the pitch was enough to make the Easter Road side’s defence look immediately more solid.
The Hibs defence needed to be solid, as all the bright early play came from Inverness.
Playing into the fierce wind blowing in off the North Sea, Caley Thistle strung together some decent attacks without threatening Simon Brown’s goal too directly, though David Murphy had to look lively to head a Roy McBain cross over his own bar after six minutes, and Barry Wilson should have made more of his chance a minute later.
Against the run of play, Hibs took the lead in the 10th minute. The home defence was posted missing as Dean Shiels sent a lovely through ball to Derek Riordan standing in glorious isolation out on the left wing. The striker cut in and placed his shot low and hard behind the stranded Mark Brown. It was a well-taken goal and John Robertson admitted afterwards that the difference between the teams was the young Hibs player.
The busy Juanjo then spurned a couple of opportunities to equalise, his free-kick careering through the wall to land in Brown’s arms, before a glaring miss in the 17th minute when he volleyed tamely at Brown while in space in the box.
Garry O’Connor nearly put Hibs further ahead but his powerful drive was superbly fingertipped over by the other Brown.
Inverness howled for a penalty when Murphy appeared to bring down Juanjo, but it looked a fair challenge and was definitely not stonewall. Stuart Golabek felt otherwise and was booked by referee Craig Thomson for his vehement protests. The Inverness penalty award was delayed by only a few minutes, however.
After Hart had been put clean through and was foiled by an outstanding one-handed diving save by Simon Brown, Caley Thistle’s next attack saw Juanjo fouled by Gary Caldwell as he burst into the box. This time referee Thomson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Wilson stepped forward to place his shot low to Brown’s left.
Whatever manager Tony Mowbray said at half time, the Hibs players responded and just about deserved victory on the strength of their second-half display. The winner came on the hour mark when O’Connor drove a loose ball across the box and Riordan somehow guided his header into the net.
The striker should have had his hat-trick in 75 minutes, but Mark Brown turned his cross-cum-shot over, while at the other end Simon Brown preserved Hibs’ lead with a fine save from Wilson and a more fortuitous grab with his legs off Graham Bayne’s close-range effort.