HIBEE HISTORY: Easter Road men keep SPL top spot

David Murphy, second right, is mobbed
David Murphy, second right, is mobbed
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Hibs consolidated their position at the top of the SPL as they brought Rangers crashing back to earth with a defeat at Ibrox, the Gers having just returned on a high from one of their greatest away European successes – a 3-0 Champions League victory over French champions Lyon.

The Easter Road side sat at the league summit having completed a Glasgow double, with this their sixth league success in an unbeaten start to the league campaign.

Defender David Murphy was the Hibees hero, the full-back conjuring the winner late on before he also managed a critical clearance off his own line in the dying minutes.

Gers boss Walter Smith blundered with his team selection. The men who provided the goals at Stade Gerland on Tuesday evening did not start the game. Lee McCulloch and Daniel Cousin began on the bench and only appeared when Hibs had taken the lead. DaMarcus Beasley was missing altogether and Steven Naismith was also held in reserve, while Jean-Claude Darcheville was injured.

Smith had cause to regret his selection afterwards, but it was obvious that they were struggling from early on, for there wasn’t an ounce of oomph in his team’s attack. Kris Boyd was up front on his own for Rangers and he didn’t get a sniff.

At the other end, Mickael Antoine-Curier had help from Clayton Donaldson and Steven Fletcher but none of them had any luck either. The midfield was too crowded for anything crisp to happen. Too many bodies were colliding.

The opening half was a tedious affair, the only quality provided by Steven Whittaker who darted up the right and sent in a cross which Hibs keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay could only paw away to Charlie Adam. The midfielder tried to delicately pick a spot in the corner of the Hibs goal but hit it wide.

At the break Hibs boss John Collins acted, replacing Donaldson with Filipe Morais, who went on to have a telling role in Murphy’s goal. That was the kind of decisive thinking the Rangers fans wanted from Smith but there was no such move from him despite Ibrox getting more restless and more abusive of their team.

Then the place went barmy. Hibs won a corner, Morais swung it in and Murphy sneaked in ahead of everyone to glance a header past McGregor. He took off in the direction of the Hibs support, pursued by his team-mates, greeted by his euphoric fans, a small pocket of joy amid the bitterness and rancour in the home crowd.

They roared for Smith to act and eventually he did. In the 69th minute he replaced Whittaker with Naismith and Kevin Thomson with McCulloch. When they didn’t pay dividends he put Cousin on for Boyd. Hibs repelled them all.

Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Murphy, Jones, Hogg, Chisholm, Antonine-Curier, Kerr, Beuzelin, Donaldson, Fletcher.