What Hibs' victory over Queen's Park means for SPFL Reserve League table as Molotnikov strikes late
A late goal from substitute Rudi Molotnikov ensured Hibs stayed top of the SPFL Reserve League – but the Capital club were lucky to take the three points from an evenly-balanced match in which the visitors missed an open goal.
Darren McGregor was the architect of the goal, driving forwards from the back and playing in Josh McCulloch, whose run and movement gave him an advantage over the Spiders’ defence. His neat through-ball was perfectly timed for Molotnikov to fire across the goalkeeper and inside the far post.
It was a blow for Queen’s Park, for whom Lennon Connolly had missed a presentable chance with just under 20 minutes remaining. Murray Johnson did well to shepherd Scott Williamson away from goal following a counter-attack and although Connolly looked odds-on to score from Williamson’s chipped cross, he contrived to head high and wide.
The match started evenly enough, Kyle McClelland bravely blocking a 25-yard effort by Liam McLeish in Queen’s best chance of the opening exchanges while Ethan Laidlaw fired over for the hosts. McLeish had an audacious effort from distance that dropped just over the bar and on 28 minutes, McClelland headed just wide from a corner.
Jacques Heraghty kept the game goalless ten minutes before the interval, somehow blocking Josh O’Connor’s close-range effort. Johnson was then called into action to deny Connolly in what was the final chance of the half.
The dangerous Connolly powered a shot over from 20 yards as the second period began in the same manner as the first, and Johnson got down well to deny Lewis Reid on the hour mark. Substitute Reuben McAllister nearly grabbed the opener in spectacular fashion with Heraghty only just getting fingertips to his cross from the left that threatened to sneak in at the back post.
With both teams pushing for a winner, McAllister blazed over and at the other end Williamson couldn’t keep his effort on target and Johnson had to be alert to clear the danger as Connolly threatened to pounce on a slack backpass.
Hibs switched to a back three, pushing Molotnikov up top and eventually reaped the rewards. McGregor used his experience to win possession on the half-way line and feed McCulloch, who teed up Molotnikov for the winner.
Speaking afterwards Hibs academy chief Steve Kean said: “It was a very good win but wasn’t a very good performance. To not play well but to get a result is important for the player’s development. We are getting into that habit of picking up wins and grinding out results. We were well off it in terms of performance levels but there are tonnes of things we can work on from that game.”
The victory means Hibs remain top of the SPFL Reserve League with 13 points from their first five matches. Dundee are in second with ten points, Queen’s Park occupy third with nine points while Kilmarnock and Ayr United are both on seven points in fourth and fifth. Hamilton lie sixth with Motherwell, Livingston, and Queen of the South all on four points and Dundee United anchored to the foot of the table with just one point, albeit having played just two matches.
Hibs are next in Reserve League action when they travel to face Hamilton on Tuesday March 21.