ON the back of being awarded a four-year contract, 22-year-old Garry O’Connor led the line superbly in a goalscoring display that was instrumental to the Easter Road side establishing a four-point lead in the SPL’s third spot over Aberdeen.
Livingston 0-2 Hibs
January 15, 2005
O’Connor was supposed to be on the way out when Tony Mowbray arrived the previous summer, but this performance only helped to back up the manager’s decision to tie up the striker.
While Hibs didn’t quite hit the heights in facing down an admirably committed Livingston, they condemned Richard Gough’s men to a defeat that dropped them to bottom place in the table with moments of panache that set them apart from their opponents.
It was predictable that the traffic was one way once the early jostling for control had settled down. Those in yellow and white candy-stripes threatened to be sweet meat for the Leith club as they found themselves being dragged every which way as they sought to quell opponents brimming with attacking invention.
For a 20-minute spell in the first period, Livingston were continually stretched with pass-and-run combination play that was straight from the training ground. O’Connor, in particular, looked a man on a mission, understandably with the ink barely dry on his new deal.
Courtesy of an enthusiastic PA announcer, there were fanfares aplenty for Livingston’s new January recruits whom Gough elected to start on the bench. According to reports, signed-to-the-end of the season Hungarians Gabor Vincze, Attila Kriston and Ferenc Horvath were brought to the Livingston manager’s attention by one of his Californian neighbours. 32-year-old Horvath was a proven striker at international level with 14 goals in 49 appearances. He and Kriston, both hulking figures, appeared as substitutes in the second period but could make little impression on an encounter by then being dominated by Hibs.
Gough’s stated intention when appointed in November was to turn around the playing squad with additions but he must be heartened with the turnaround in the form of some of those he inherited. In the early stages, they stood firm in the face of Hibs’ penalty box assaults that had zip and nip.
In the 17th minute O’Connor looked on course to bag the opener after outpacing Ryan Harding and rounding goalkeeper Colin Meldrum, only for the defender to chase back and cut out his subsequent netbound shot and ten minutes later Stuart Lovell resembled an Indian rubber man in contorting himself to hook from the line a placed header by Steven Fletcher.
Livingston had the odd moment when they slipped free of the shackles they were placed in by Hibernian and on the half hour mark a curling effort by Burton O’Brien forced Simon Brown to look lively in touching the ball over the bar. But their glimpses of goal became ever more infrequent in a second period that started ten minutes late because a problem with Mike McCurry’s vision forced fourth official David Somers to take over in the middle.
Within eight minutes of taking charge, the emergency referee was re-spotting the ball in the centre circle, O’Connor striking after latching on to a ball launched forward from deep by Steven Whittaker. The Hibs man showed his bustling qualities to hold off Harding before applying a clinical finish that involved him side-footing an angled effort wide of Meldrum from the right-hand side of the box.
O’Connor was to the fore in Hibs’ issue-settling second goal, which arrived in the 73rd minute.
A defensive error allowed O’Connor a shooting opportunity and when Meldrum, diving full length, could only parry his fiercely-struck drive, Derek Riordan zoomed in to knock the ball into an unguarded net.