Hibee History: Montrose sunk in five-star showing

Colin Nish grabbed two goals for Hibs against Montrose
Colin Nish grabbed two goals for Hibs against Montrose
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Hibs cruised into the last eight of the Active Nation Scottish Cup as they brushed aside the challenge of Third Division Montrose at Easter Road.

Former Hibs goalkeeper Andrew McNeil had to be at his best to prevent a real hammering for the Angus minnows as he produced an array of fantastic saves.

McNeil quickly became the busiest player on the pitch, thrusting out his right hand to push away Liam Miller’s angled shot and then repeating the trick as he got down to Derek Riordan’s effort only to see Colin Nish hammer home the rebound with just four minutes on the clock.

Seconds later McNeil was forced to push another Riordan shot over before the long legs of Montrose defender Alan Campbell prevented John Rankin’s low cross reaching the unmarked Anthony Stokes.

Stokes was convinced he had been up-ended by McNeil as the pair raced for a through ball and referee Alan Muir took an age to decide otherwise, much to the fury of the Republic of Ireland striker.

McNeil touched away a looping header from Nish but the big hitman claimed his second goal of the game in the 24th minute as he met another low cross from Rankin.

The “Gable Endies” hadn’t been seen as an attacking force but there were a couple of minutes of consternation for their SPL opponents as goalkeeper Graeme Smith did well to claw the ball away from John Gemmell before making sure he got his body behind a thunderbolt of a free-kick from Chris Hegarty from all of 35 yards.

But the focus was soon back on McNeil, the former Hibs star getting down well to save a Riordan free-kick and then rising superbly to touch another Riordan effort over his crossbar.

Hibs were flat at the start of the second half, Montrose enjoying more of the ball than they had done before the interval, but unable to create any real openings. Easter Road boss John Hughes booted the side of the home dug-out as he made his frustration clear before introducing Moroccan playmaker Merouane Zemmama in a bid to enliven proceedings.

However, it was Hibs skipper Chris Hogg who came to his side’s rescue twice in seconds as he blocked Stevie Nicholas’s shot and the Montrose striker’s effort from the rebound.

Nish, though, should have claimed his hat-trick in the 67th minute, McNeil producing yet another blinding save as he got a hand to Zemmama’s vicious shot only for the ball to fall to the feet of Ian Murray. He spotted Nish all alone at the back post and pushed the ball into his path, but the big striker was too casual with his shot from six yards, allowing the goalkeeper to make up enough ground to put it round the post.

There was nothing even McNeil could do as the home side made it three in the 68th minute, Riordan claiming his 11th goal of the season with a thundering right-foot shot from 30 yards which exploded into the top corner of the net.

Hibs appeared to have booked their place in the quarter-finals but Hegarty reminded them the game was far from over as he collected a pass 20 yards out and rifled a low shot beyond Smith’s right hand with 17 minutes remaining. But striker Abdessalem Benjelloun, who had replaced Stokes on 71 minutes, restored Hibs’ three-goal lead in the 77th minute, rising to meet countryman Zemmama’s cross to glance a header beyond McNeil.

And substitute Alan Gow capped his debut by dancing through three challenges to slot a low shot beyond McNeil to make if five with two minutes remaining.

Hibs: Smith, Wotherspoon, Hogg, Hanlon, Murray, Miller, McBride, Rankin, Stokes, Nish, Riordan