Paul CAIRNEY may have scored the goal which took Hibs back to second place in the SPL, but today the midfield ace hailed goalkeeper Ben Williams as the hero of the Easter Road outfit’s win over St Johnstone.
With Pat Fenlon’s side under the cosh as Saints sought second place for themselves, Williams pulled off a stunning penalty save from substitute Nigel Hasselbaink and followed it up by beating away Liam Craig’s effort from the rebound.
Cairney claimed the game’s only goal less then three minutes later to leave Hibs one point behind leaders Celtic who hammered Capital rivals Hearts 4-0 at Tynecastle.
Today, though, Cairney revealed he and his team-mates were totally oblivious to events in Gorgie, unaware their hopes of even going top again had been dashed before they’d even kicked off in Perth as Neil Lennon’s side made a whirlwind start against the Jambos.
Admitting the pressure was on after successive defeats to Dundee and Aberdeen, the former Partick Thistle star said: “It was important after those results that we got something so this was a massive three points for us. It was great to get the goal to win it but the hero was Ben with that save from the penalty, he won it for us. Had they scored with it at that stage, with only ten minutes or so left, I think it would have been hard for us to get anything from the game.”
Boss Pat Fenlon agreed
Williams’ double stop was the turning point in the match,
rating the 30-year-old’s save from Craig as even better than that from Hasselbaink’s original effort. He said: “We were under the cosh a little bit, they are a big team and had a fair few corners although we defended them quite well.
“But Ben saving the penalty gave the players a lift and maybe deflated them [Saints] a little bit. That happens a lot in football, you save a penalty and then go up the pitch and score – I’m
delighted it was us this time.”
With a back problem almost certain to keep captain James McPake out of Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash with Hearts and Tim Clancy and Gary Deegan still sidelined, Fenlon was delighted to report no further injury worries. He said: “There’s one or two bumps and bruises, a couple of little knocks that we’ll deal with over the next couple of days.”
However, with this confidence-boosting victory, Cairney revealed he and his team-mates, having pushed the visit of Hearts to the back of their minds, can now focus fully on Sunday’s game. He said: “It’s a massive game, there will be a massive crowd but we have to start better than we did last night. All the boys and the fans will be up for it and hopefully we can give the supporters something to shout about.”