Victory puts Hibs’ Scottish Cup dreams to the four

Sam Stanton scores the third goal and then celebrates with Jason Cummings. Pictures: Jane Barlow
Sam Stanton scores the third goal and then celebrates with Jason Cummings. Pictures: Jane Barlow
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The dream that this might just turn out to be Hibs’ year when it comes to the Scottish Cup remains very much alive.

Of course there have been plenty of times over the past 113 years when exactly the same thing has been said only, as we well know, for such hopes to be dashed, sometimes in the cruellest of ways.

So it is perhaps tempting fate as an all-Championship semi-final clash against Falkirk at Hampden awaits Alan Stubbs and his players at the beginning of next month to again suggest that long, long wait for this particular piece of silverware is about to come to an end.

Time will tell, but as of today, the Capital side and their fans are entitled to let their thoughts run just a little bit wild, just 90 minutes now separating them from yet another tilt at the Scottish Cup glory which somehow managed to elude the Famous Five and Turnbull’s Tornadoes.

But wouldn’t it just be like football for this season, when the club is playing in the Championship rather than the top flight, and the goal is to win promotion, for it to end by breaking the club’s long standing run without the Scottish Cup?

No doubt every side remaining in the competition will now fancy their chances but, as Stubbs pointed out after their comfortable 4-0 disposal of Berwick Rangers, one or two might just want to steer clear of Hibs, a side which has tasted defeat over 90 minutes just once since the end of September, a run now encompassing 25 matches.

During that time they have won plenty of plaudits for their free-flowing style, many judging them to be the best footballing team in the league even if Capital rivals Hearts are running away with the title.

However, in clinching three vital points in their bid for a play-off place away to Alloa Athletic and again in this match, despite the scoreline, Hibs have demonstrated that even if they aren’t on their “A” game they are capable of producing the sort of professional performance which will carry them to victory, as Stubbs acknowledged.

In a game which could easily have proved to one for the giant killers, Hibs hardly gave their League Two opponents a glimpse of causing an upset other than a lethargic five minutes at the start of the second half when they were already two goals to the good.

However, Stubbs, as he revealed, felt he couldn’t breath easily until substitute Sam Stanton had knocked home a third in the second half.

The head coach said: “It might not look it on the outside, but I am never relaxed until the final whistle. I have been in football too long to know that if you do not do things right then sometimes it can bite you on the bottom when you least expect it. Being two up is a great scoreline but it’s a vulnerable one if the opposition score.”

It’s a scenario every football fans knows well, a commanding position suddenly under threat with the nerves jangling both on and off the pitch but, on this occasion, Hibs remained in control throughout, two goals in as many minutes from Jason Cummings and Lewis Stevenson before the half-hour mark settling everyone down and leaving Berwick, as their player/manager Colin Cameron admitted, with an uphill struggle.

Incredibly, having scored just two goals in his previous nine years with Hibs, Stevenson has now made it three in eight matches, the little full back perhaps epitomising the transformation Stubbs has engineered since arriving last summer to find a club shattered by the events of the previous season.

Stubbs said: “They were quality goals. The passing, the real understanding of inter-changing, quick one-touch football and movement. Probably the last person you would expect to be on the end of the second one would be Lewy. That’s what he has added to his game, he has a belief and is playing more of his game in the middle to final third. He’s chipping in with a few goals. He’s very much Mr Shy, I think you can see from his celebrations he doesn’t really know what to do but I also think you can see from the way all the players celebrated he is a very popular guy in the dressing-room.”

A David Gray header just after the break had come back off Berwick goalkeeper Billy Bald’s post before substitute Sam Stanton forced the ball over the line after Bald had blocked a shot from Dominique Malonga. And Liam Fontaine powered home a header from Stanton’s corner to complete a convincing win.

Berwick, as Stubbs insisted, made a game of it in only their second appearance in the quarter-finals, but a team brimming with confidence and packed with quality proved too good on the day, the Hibs boss saying: “I think they deserve a lot of credit and can hold their head high. Coming here was always going to be a big ask. Football is like that, there’s the romance of the cup and while they are still in it there’s always an opportunity to cause a shock.”

And no doubt those are words Stubbs will use again as he reminds his players that, as far as they are concerned, they have as much chance as anyone else of getting their hands on the trophy.

Asked to assess his side’s chances ahead of last night’s draw, he said: “The most important thing is we still have a chance because we are still in it.

“It’s not necessarily the best team that wins cup competitions, its about handling the day, handling the occasion and then we will see what is what.

“I’m delighted for the players because they are the ones who cross that white line, they deserve all the credit.

“I think a quarter-final is a horrible position because you are so close but so far. But they have given themselves an opportunity and it’s one I feel they will grab hold of.

“We’ll be going to Hampden to enjoy it and have a right go. We are not going for a day out.”