Gretna 0, Hibs 1: November 10, 2007
Hibs fans travelled to Fir Park predicting a win by three, four or even five goals but they had to settle for just the one against toiling Gretna, with the ‘favourite’ tag resting uncomfortably on the shoulders of those in green and white.
Gretna’s resistance was admirable. They dug deep after being comprehensively outplayed in going a goal behind to a 53rd minute Steven Fletcher strike. Davie Irons’ side then brought about a genuine role reversal, finding an attacking edge as Hibs were hit by jitters. But nothing sprung from the home side’s efforts as John Collins’ team clung on for a victory that left them joint second.
Hibs were immediately into the swing and controlled the first half.
For all their possession, the infrequency with which the visitors troubled Greg Fleming’s goal must have proved exasperating for Collins.
Collins had been forced into an early injury-enforced change. His team, though, should have lost a player but gained a goal in the incident that ended Mickael Antoine-Curier’s involvement 14 minutes in.
The striker collided with keeper Fleming as both challenged for a header unwisely pushed towards goal by Evan Horwood. The clash left both players sprawled on the turf but when the ball broke to Filipe Morais on the edge of the area, he failed miserably to take advantage of an unguarded goal and thumped the ball wildly over the bar.
If Irons’ men did not look quite as desperate as might have been expected of a team that had claimed only four points in their first 12 Premier League games, then the Leith club struggled to demonstrate the conviction that offered them the opportunity to move level on points with Rangers with a Fir Park victory. No doubt, a three-game winless run ahead of this match had chipped at confidence.
That said, there never seemed much doubt that Collins’ men would find a way through Gretna’s defence. Every other team had hitherto done so in the opening months of the season, and only the width of the crossbar prevented Rob Jones ending home hopes of a first clean sheet with a looping header from a corner in the 36th minute. The deadlock didn’t last much longer, however, with Steven Fletcher providing the breakthrough early in the second period. The foward’s 53rd minute strike was an example of why no cause should ever be given up as it originated from a deflected Clayton Donaldson shot that seemed destined to go for a corner.
Lewis Stevenson had other ideas and chased the ball down, before cutting back to Fletcher who hammered a low effort past Fleming. Remarkably, in the 37 minutes that followed the goal, Gretna became the team most likely to score.
They carved open their opponents on at least two occasions but just could not find a finish. And in the closing seconds, James Grady came within a whisker of an equaliser after he cutely flicked the ball over the on-rushing Yves Ma-Kalambay, only for Jones to watch it drift just past the post.
The Hibs captain seemed to be living dangerously then, as his team had for half an hour. Gretna, meanwhile, were hardly living at all.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Gathuessi, Jones, Hogg, Morais, Stevenson, Kerr, Beuzelin, Antoine-Curier, Fletcher.