Hibs 4, Kilmarnock 1: September 29, 2007
Five goals, a hat-trick hero, a myriad of chances, world-class saves, three yellow cards and one red, refereeing controversy, three penalties, one of them brilliantly saved, physical challenges aplenty and genuine skill abounding – this match had the lot.
In the end Hibs won comfortably and were by far the better side, but it takes two to tango and Kilmarnock played their part in an enthralling contest. The standing ovation at the end was for the whole cast of players – even referee Stuart Dougal was not catcalled off the pitch.
Hibs stormed into the match as if determined to blow away the memory of their midweek thumping by Motherwell which meant the CIS Insurance Cup would not be returning to Easter Road. Playing well up the field, their attractive passing play soon began to trouble the visitors and an early goal looked on the cards.
It came after just 12 minutes when Kilmarnock failed to clear their lines and Brian Kerr returned the ball into the box where it dropped to Clayton Donaldson. Even though he was surrounded by a posse of hesitant defenders, Donaldson had time to turn and hook his volley spectacularly into the net.
Kilmarnock were by no means bit-part actors in this thoroughly entertaining extravaganza, and they almost equalised inside 60 seconds, Aime Koudou’s effort failing to trouble Yves Ma-Kalambay.
Steven Fletcher should have put Hibs two up after 20 minutes after David Murphy put him in the clear with a precise 50-yard pass. The striker closed in on Alan Combe but shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Although Hibs had the lion’s share of possession, Kilmarnock were still very much in the game. Frazer Wright headed over from a corner at the other end before Combe pulled off a tremendous save after 27 minutes, leaping high to his right to just claw away Rob Jones’s goalbound header.
It was merely a precursor to the turning point of the match which arrived in controversial fashion just before the half-hour mark. After a series of corners demonstrated that Hibs were increasing the pressure, Donaldson raced into the box where he was scythed down by Wright. The defender clearly got the ball, but referee Stuart Dougal ruled he had taken too much of Donaldson. Before Donaldson sent Combe the wrong way to score, Dougal yellow-carded Simon Ford for dissent.
The Hibs’ fans sat back to anticipate a barrowload, but instead Kilmarnock showed real fighting spirit and Alan Johnston forced Ma-Kalambay into a fine save at the near post. The home side ended the half very much in the ascendancy, and Hibs should have gone three up after two minutes of the second period when there was no argument about their second penalty. David Lilley flattened Donaldson in the box and the striker grabbed the ball to give himself the chance of a hat-trick. Yet again Combe came to the rescue, diving to his left to parry the spot kick clear off the post.
Jim Jefferies went for broke by replacing his entire attack and putting on Craig Bryson, Colin Nish and Willie Gibson. Kilmarnock looked re-invigorated, but Fletcher was then replaced by Mikael Antoine-Curier and he livened up Hibs’ attack.
Indeed after 64 minutes, the big fellow pounced after David Lilley made a hash of his clearance and the ball fell to Donaldson whose weak shot across goal found Antoine-Curier.
The visitors pulled a goal back five minutes later, Nish side-footing home an accurate low cross from Gibson.
Donaldson’s hat-trick finally came after 77 minutes. He was clean through on goal when Ryan O’Leary tripped him, and the Kilmarnock player saw red.
Again he put Combe the wrong way to get his third.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Murphy, Jones, McCormack, Chisholm, Morais, Kerr, Beuzelin, Donaldson, Fletcher.