Had someone said to me after the opening 45 minutes at Hampden Park on Saturday that we would be heading back to the national stadium next month for the final itself, I would have walked away leaving them to emerge from their own little fantasy world in their own time.
Being 3-0 down at half-time was a complete shellshock to everyone connected with the club, but was justifiably deserved; a living nightmare, if the truth be told, and a performance that was not fit of any side representing Hibernian Football Club.
An enormous amount of credit must go to a young Falkirk team who played with freedom, composure and desire; the attributes that were posted missing from our own first-half display. It looked as if a number of individuals within the Hibs side had become unnerved by the occasion and our opponents were able to capitalise on this to great effect. Had it not been for a number of crucial stops from goalkeeper Ben Williams, particularly striker Lyle Taylor’s chance just before half-time to make the scoreline 4-0 when straight through on goal, I think it would have been a near impossible task to overturn a four-goal deficit.
It has been proven that temperament and mental-strength are just as invaluable as natural ability when it comes to performing on the big stage – an area where the majority of our starting XI failed to deliver in the opening 45 minutes. If you cannot raise your game for such a prestigious encounter then you have to question your commitment to not only the game but your profession as a whole. The one hope I did carry during my half-time pie was would such a young Falkirk side have the ability to sustain that level of performance throughout the entire duration of the match? Surely it would represent a tall order for any First Division club.
Pat Fenlon’s change of formation, coupled with the introduction of some fresh faces, was the catalyst needed to get us back in contention. From the moment referee Iain Brines blew his whistle to signal the start of the second 45, there was a desire and passion from the players in green and white that had been posted missing 60 minutes earlier when the match kicked-off. We have heard in the aftermath from Saturday’s match that there were some strong words exchanged within the Hibs dressing-room from both players and the management team, and rightly so, but whatever was said, which will remain a private matter, certainly appeared to have fired up the players who expressed a eagerness to send us into our second Scottish Cup final in consecutive years.
The road to recovery was inspired by young Alex Harris, who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and showed some of the more experienced players just how much it meant to progress to the Scottish Cup final. We did, eventually, regain the composure needed as we passed the ball, were strong in the challenges, and scored the goals needed to complete what was ultimately, the great escape.
As I have said in previous columns, the potential of the younger individuals at the club is something that can come and go within a matter of months as all the hype and expectations can prove detrimental to a players’ development. With this in mind, I, for one, am not in favour of putting too much pressure on their young shoulders by earmarking any future stars. However, I do believe young Harris deserves praise for his contributions and looks to possess the type of flair most Hibs supporters would gladly pay to watch. Let’s hope he continues to improve his game at Easter Road for the foreseeable future and be part of a Scottish Cup winning squad that will help his development considerably.
The game of football never ceases to amaze, particularly when it comes to being a supporter of Hibs. However, we have made up for the disappointment of not securing our position in the top six by confirming our place in the 2013 Scottish Cup final. I am sure this year’s encounter with Celtic will once again pitch all Hibs fans on an emotional rollercoaster and something similar to what we experienced almost 12 months ago – let’s just hope there is a completely different outcome.
I believe the pressure is now off the players for the time being as earning our place in next month’s final was our main priority for the rest of the this season. However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels as the remaining league fixtures have given Pat Fenlon the opportunity to tinker with a few possibilities ahead of the big game. The only way to enjoy our trip west on May 26 is to return to the Capital that same evening with our name on the trophy.