New Hibs manager Tony Mowbray had repeatedly insisted that he wanted his team to play open, attractive football, but he was having to defend his principles after his side were booed off the park by their own supporters, after a bizarre match that comprised eight goals.
Five minutes into the second half, the Easter Road side were 4-1 up and coasting, only to follow that with a collapse more spectacular than anything that preceded it.
Dundee’s John Sutton had set the ball rolling after only seven minutes. When defender Colin Murdock misjudged a long clearance, he manoeuvred the ball on to his left foot and, from an angled position just outside the penalty area, struck a dipping shot in off the goalkeeper’s left hand.
If Murdock was in any way culpable, his counterpart in the Dundee side contrived to make him feel better. Brett Sancho was no more prompt in dealing with the long ball that led to Hibs’ equaliser. His hesitation allowed striker Garry O’Connor to seize possession, his strike forced goalkeeper Kelvin Jack into a low parry which allowed Dean Shiels to pounce on the loose ball and mop up.
Individual brilliance from Derek Riordan prevented the sides going into the interval on level terms. The goal was not without controversy, however. When Bobby Mann barged into the back of O’Connor, referee Charlie Richmond at first ignored the incident, only to award a free-kick after a noisy claim by the home crowd. Riordan stepped up to the dead ball and neatly disguised his intentions with a swirling shot that sailed into the top left-hand corner.
After such an early setback, Hibs could not have expected to be ahead so soon, and the ease with which they stretched their lead was no less startling. Only 52 seconds of the second half had gone when Frenchman Guillaume Beuzelin set up O’Connor with an intelligent diagonal ball over the defence. The young striker took it in his stride, rattling a low shot into the bottom corner. Hibs required only another four minutes to discover that it was one of those days when everything seemed to be coming off. An unremarkable in-swinging cross by Shiels took the merest glance off O’Connor’s head, causing the ball to pick up speed as it skidded across the penalty box and in at the far post.
Dundee’s vigorous response began in the 64th minute when Garry Brady, who had taken the field just a few seconds earlier, capitalised on a bout of confusion just outside the penalty area. His curling shot was placed with some precision, between the right-hand post and the goalkeeper’s left hand.
Suddenly, it was Hibs who were all at sea. With 12 minutes left, the visitors scored a third. A long throw by Venezuelan left-back Jonay Hernandez prompted panic in the home defence, who were static as Glen Larsen did little more than allow the ball to bounce off his shin and over the line. And then, in injury time, Hernandez completed the unthinkable when he slid in at the back post to convert a low cross by Iain Anderson.
This match, early in Mowbray’s tenure, would be long forgotten about by the Easter Road support by the end of the season, with Mowbray guiding the Hibees to a terrific third place finish and European football.
Hibs: Simon Brown, Whittaker, Murphy. Caldwell, Murdock, Scott Brown, Glass, Beuzelin, Shiels, O’Connor, Riordan,