HIBS were hoping to build on the third place they had secured three months ago as hope sprung eternal at Easter Road. Likewise, it appeared, was the queue to collect season tickets at the adjoining church hall.
Hibs 1, Dunfermline 1
July 30, 2005
In and out they filed, whispering a silent prayer for the fortunes of their team, a supplication that the campaign would deliver as much joy as did last.
Both sides had made signings over the summer to supplement their squads, yet ultimately, all was as it had been – Dunfermline had lost none of their graft and dogged determination, while Hibs retained their attacking abandon.
Straight from kick-off, O’Connor bounded down the right before picking out Derek Riordan. Unsettled all summer, the striker’s cause to retain the affections of the Hibs support was advanced by the manner in which he picked out Steven Fletcher, who wastefully miscued.
O’Connor displayed his cunning once more with a clever turn which confounded the Pars defence and afforded Riordan an opportunity, but he struck just wide.
Eventually, Dunfermline newcomer Scott Morrison broke the early conventionality by latching on to Simon Donnelly’s precise pass to pose an initial test for Zibi Malkowski, which the Pole passed by leaping to his left. However, his colleagues failed him moments later, and to their cost, as the visitors stole an advantage. Darren Young picked out Greg Shields whose low shot this time was more elusive, creeping inside the right-hand post.
There were pins dropping, audibly. But Riordan did not relent. When Guillaume Beuzelin’s long-range attempt cannoned off Scott Wilson, it fell kindly but the Hibees talisman could not convert. He would soon tantalise once more with a free kick 30 metres out, but the ball drifted aloft in the breeze.
The woodwork was not kind to Hibs. O’Connor found it when he held off Wilson’s attentions on a sprint upfield. Scott Brown was equally culpable, however. Already booked, he was dismissed for chopping down Darren Young with an unwieldy late challenge six minutes before the interval.
With passions stirred, the tackles shook vehemently, Fletcher fortunate to acquire only a booking ahead of the break.
It was often desperate. When Gary Mason grounded Riordan just outside the box, a set piece conjured up while Hibernian were in hibernation was so nearly executed to perfection, Caldwell deftly pushing wide to O’Connor who inexplicably could not hit the target. It was an all too common affliction.
Mowbray was spurred into alterations, Stephen Glass and Sam Morrow unleashed. No sooner had the duo arrived when Caldwell finally obliged Halliwell to stand firm with a point-blank block but the good work of the former Clyde keeper was undone when Hibs levelled in the 73rd minute. He did as much as he could to push away Riordan’s thorny lob, but his lumbering defenders hesitated to clear, allowing O’Connor to play poacher and thrash in from three metres.
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Caldwell, Smith, Brown, Beuzelin, Stewart, Fletcher, O’Connor, Riordan.