Hibee History: Sodje strikes to defeat Dons
WITH just one defeat at championship-chasing Celtic in their last nine games, Hibs should have been dreaming of a bit more than just finishing top of the bottom pile.
However, after a horrendous start to the season in which manager John Hughes was sacked and a mid-term slump under the charge of new boss Colin Calderwood, that was all the Easter Road faithful had to look forward to.
In this encounter, once again there were signs that there could be far more sunshine on Leith, as they erased the memory of their last visit to Pittodrie – a 4-2 loss in October – for a hard fought 1-0 win, thanks to striker Akpo Sodje’s first-half strike.
With Aberdeen also suffering from the blues during this campaign, this game was effectively devoid of any issue bigger than pride.
The threat of relegation was long forgotten, thanks to a timely revival at both clubs, but both Calderwood and Craig Brown would be using the remaining league games to assess what was required to ensure next season was an improvement. The hosts also had the small matter of a Scottish Cup semi-final clash with Celtic to prepare for, but found themselves on the back foot for much of the opening quarter in this match.
Heeding their manager’s pre-match call for a strong start, Hibs swept into the lead after 15 minutes. Aberdeen defender Steven Smith was caught daydreaming on the ball on the edge of his own penalty area with Matt Thornhill nicking in to set up a Hibs attack.
Thornhill quickly found Sodje, who swept a fine low right-foot strike beyond the despairing grasp of Jamie Langfield.
However, Hibs failed to show the drive required to really press home their advantage, and, as a result, the Dons were never out of the game. The enigmatic talents of Chris Maguire were always going to provide a key to unlock the Hibs defence at some point.
That point came on 26 minutes when he picked up a pass from Smith on the left touchline. With his back to goal and 30 yards out, Maguire appeared to pose no immediate danger, but he had other ideas as he swivelled round, picked up a few gears and went for goal.
His low 20-yard strike had Mark Brown well beaten, only for the ball to crack off the base of the post.
That was to prove the last genuine chance of the first period as the game lived up to its low-key status by petering out into the break.
Hibs began the second half the stronger of the two teams and really should have doubled their advantage just two minutes into it.
Goalscorer Sodje was guilty of being far too casual as he picked up the ball between Derek Young and Andrew Considine, firing high and wide from 15 yards.
The game then burst into life on the hour mark with both sides having a chance to score. Firstly, Aberdeen struck the post with Maguire’s effort – this time turned onto the woodwork before the visiting defence blocked Sone Aluko’s rebound attempt.
Then, on a quick breakaway, David Wotherspoon found the unmarked Lewis Stevenson, but his strike was blocked by the advancing Langfield.
Aberdeen hit the woodwork for a third time in the dying seconds as Josh Magennis headed off the bar to narrowly miss out on nicking a point.
Hibs: Brown, Hanlon, Stephens, Booth, Towell, Stevenson, Thornhill, Miller, Palsson, Sodje, Vaz Te