Given their long history of Scottish Cup heartache, the pressure was all on Hibs as they faced junior side Irvine Meadow in the fourth round.
Only the second junior league club to have reached this stage of the cup, Meadow’s team consisted of the usual non-league mish-mash of tradesmen, bank workers and even a gravedigger.
They shouldn’t have been close to unsettling an SPL side; however, they started as though away days at grounds such as Easter Road were commonplace. In the stands, family and friends were more excitable.
The dream, though, only lasted until the 32nd minute when Hibs managed to edge themselves ahead. It was a lead they did not deserve at the time. The Ayrshire side, decked out in blue and backed by a sizeable support, merited more than the typical “plucky” adjectives trotted out on such occasions.
Brian McGinty had a couple of efforts early on, flashing one across the goal and just wide of the far post. Another, this time from long range, rose up over the bar.
In midfield, they didn’t allow their hosts to find any rhythm and, at the back, captain Chris Roberston marshalled the likes of Anthony Stokes.
It caused frustration in the home ranks and served to enhance the belief of the underdogs with Hibs gaffer John Hughes saying their display deserved the plaudits, if not a place in the next round. It also underlined the merits of a pyramid system, according to both managers.
In the first-ever Scottish Cup meeting between a top-flight side and a junior outfit, the Hibs players were getting a sense of who they were dealing with, the reigning Super League Premier Division champions giving them little time or space.
In the 29th minute they served up a major scare. Barr could have secured headlines when he ran into the box. Hibs keeper Graeme Smith rushed out and dived at his feet, with replays later confirming that contact had been made, but penalty shouts were ignored as referee Euan Norris booked the striker for diving.
It was a key moment because within the space of three minutes Hibs had taken the lead when David Wotherspoon crossed from the right. Although there were a couple of Hibs players at the back post, with Riordan initially being credited with the goal, the final touch appeared to belong to Zander Ryan.
Meadow still strove for a way back. In the 34th minute Chris Strain had a double effort, the first a searing shot, the second foiled as much by a rush of anticipation in his own mind as anything else. McGinty then saw an audacious chip come back off the past.
Hibs extended their lead, though, just when their fraying nerves probably needed it most. Three minutes from the interval, Stokes kept possession well, dancing about with the ball in the box until support arrived. Zemmama was the man best placed and drilled the lay-off into Michael Wardrope’s top corner.
They could have added a third, but Colin Nish put the ball wide. In the second half there were more forays from Meadow, but the damage had been done and there was a greater sense of the inevitable as Hibs stood their ground and added another. In the 59th minute, Paul Hanlon belted down the left flank before applying a clinical finish past Wardrope.