CRAIG Brewster was back at Easter Road for the second time in a week as he took charge of Inverness Caledonian Thistle under a player/manager role.
Hibs 1-0 Inverness; September 1, 2007
A week previous, Brewster had scored twice against Hibs as he played his last game for Aberdeen before taking up his new position in the Highlands.
However, leading the line in a team still seeking a single point in the league, it was always going to be a tougher proposition. He still managed to serve a first-half reminder to the Hibs backline of his nuisance value. With 37 minutes gone, referee Eddie Smith awarded the veteran a spot-kick when Rob Jones was adjudged to have huckled him to the ground. It made amends for the penalty Hibs were granted in the second minute, when Inverness defender Stuart McCaffrey was punished for an apparent handball.
It would have levelled matters if only the Highlanders had been as clinical in their conversion. Steven Fletcher dispatched his effort low to Michael Fraser’s right, while the keeper himself dived in the opposite direction. It was the youngster’s fourth goal in five first-team games and enough to give Hibs the early lead and ultimately a victory that took them second top.
Fletcher’s counterpart, Marius Niculae, could not equal the feat when his chance came 35 minutes later. The Romanian was the one charged with converting the penalty his new gaffer had just earned the team, but he blasted a poor kick straight down the middle.
At that stage, the visitors had been worthy of some parity. After a bright start, the home side had fizzled and died down to a languid approach which allowed the Highland side to push up on them and close them down, before putting together some neat passing moves of their own to go on the break. Brewster could have scored in the 13th minute when Roy McBain raced down the left flank, cut back to Ian Black and the tenacious midfielder played it into the box, but his manager failed to get his foot right round it and it whizzed wide.
In a flowing game, which both teams attempted to play on the deck, Hibs also had opportunities to put the game beyond their guests and knock down any sense of self-belief that was starting to build within them.
But too often the final ball was dallied over, the wrong option taken or the man charged with pulling the trigger too slow on the uptake.
After the interval, Fletcher’s pace became bothersome to the Inverness defence as he tried to get his second, but the rearguard remained reasonably at ease, and the longer the match wore on the more anxious the home side must have felt.
The Hibs defence looked increasingly jittery as Inverness showed the industry and the craft to trouble them and leave those watching scratching their heads as to how they had not, by then, managed to claim a point in the league.