Hibernian 4 - 0 Motherwell, April 21 2002
April is the cruellest month for dedicated fans of teams with nothing left to play for, as the lack of competitive spirit only serves to highlight the poverty of the football on display.
The Hibs support went home happy enough after two goals in either half gave them a comfortable victory, but for any neutrals in the ground, not to mention the 130 Motherwell supporters, this was a typically tedious end-of-season encounter.
Sitting in tenth and 11th places respectively in the league, both were safe from relegation.
For Hibs supporters, it was not so long since they had been facing up to the prospect of finishing 12th and rock bottom. Bobby Williamson’s arrival had not brought about a drastic improvement up until this game, but it had restored a certain solidity to a side which just a month or two previously had been wobbling precariously.
The manager had already gone some way to changing his squad, and the bench he selected for this match showed his willingness to give some of his under-21 players a chance.
It took all of a dozen minutes for the first direct attempt on goal – a shot from Alen Orman which drifted wide.
Nonetheless, the fact that the Bosnian wing-back was able to get into such an advanced position illustrated the superiority enjoyed by Hibs, who took a stranglehold on the first half before eventually finishing it two goals to the good.
The home team had other chances to open the scoring, notably a shot from Freddy Arpinon following a knockdown by Craig Brewster, but when the first goal did arrive it came out of nothing. Derek Townsley had an infuriating tendency to drift in and out of games, but when he paid attention he could be curiously effective – which is what he was after 27 minutes, curling an 18-yard shot round Francois Dubourdeau and just inside the Motherwell goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Motherwell did rouse themselves for a time after falling behind, and first Steven Hammell then Derek Adams had shots on goal which were not too far off target. A couple of minutes before half-time, David Ferrere made ideal use of his low centre of gravity to turn Gary Smith and fire in a shot, but HIbs keeper Tony Caig was just as ideally positioned to save.
That should have been that for the first 45 minutes, but in stoppage time a cross from Paul Hilland was passed back too softly by Hammell, and Arpinon pounced to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break.
On the resumption, Hibs gave Motherwell no time to claw their way back into the match. Brewster almost made it 3-0 two minutes into the second period, but Dubourdeau managed to touch the ball onto the post and behind for a corner.
In control with time running out, Hibs introduced three young substitutes in Allan Dempsie, Alan Reid and Kevin Nicol. In the end, though, it was another young player, Garry O’Connor, who made absolutely certain of the three points with two late goals. There were ten minutes left when the Scotland striker latched on to a loose ball and ran in on goal. He did not get the cleanest of contacts on his shot, but it went into the net all the same. Four minutes later, Brewster put O’Connor through, and it was a simple matter to make it 4-0.
Hibs: Caig, Orman, Smith, Caldwell, Hilland, Arpinon, O’Neil, Townsley, Wiss, Brewster, O’Connor