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Archive for the ‘ Hibernian ’ Category

Fenlon aims to end dismal derby run

2009-Riordan Penalty seals last Derby win

Pat Fenlon has told his players to play the game and not the occasion, ahead of Sunday’s clash against city rivals Hearts.

Only Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson remain from the last Hibs side to win a derby in May 2009.  Mixu Paatelainen was in charge that Thursday night when a Derek Riordan penalty separated the teams, since then, Hibs have shed three managers, with the team now bearing no resemblance to that one. Despite the comings and goings of dozens of players, neither John Hughes nor Colin Calderwood were able to find that elusive win, and Hearts go into this weekend’s match as firm favourites.

Confidence is returning however, as a rejuvenated Hibs have taken eight points in the last eight games, leaving them four points clear of Dunfermline in the fight against relegation, as well as reaching the Scottish Cup semi-final.

With Dunfermline not playing this weekend due to their opponents Celtic playing Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final, three points at Tynecastle would leave the Fifers with a mountain to climb, and the former Bohemians boss believes that his team can end the miserable run of nine derbies without a win, if they have the right attitude.

Fenlon told Hibs TV: “It is all about getting results. We go into another big game at the weekend and if we can win that then the momentum kicks on even more.

“People get joy and belief from that. It is a big game for us and if we can win then they will be a massive three points. So we’re looking forward to the game. We’ve just got to play the game. Don’t play the occasion, just play the game.

“It is about playing a football match and not about, who the opposition is. That will count for the supporters and obviously the stadium will be rocking. We’ve got to enjoy that and embrace it, but just play the game and leave the occasion to other people.

“Hearts will be the favourites – they are in a better position in the league and we haven’t beaten them in a while. But we are now a different proposition to what they faced previously when I was here. So we’re looking forward to the game.

“We’ve got a bit of confidence into the players and the players are looking forward to it as well. We know it will be a tough game – they are a decent side. But it is a massive game for us and an important three points is at stake.”

Winger Ivan Sproule and midfielder Isaiah Osbourne are both suspended and Tom Soares is expected to return to the starting line-up.  There will to be a strong Irish influence in the squad with Graham Stack, Matt Doherty, Roy O’Donovan  and Eoin Doyle likely to feature, so any St Patrick’s Day celebrations will have to be put on hold, at least for 24 hours.

The game will be shown live on ESPN at 1200 on Sunday.

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Matt Doherty enjoying his loan spell at Hibs

Avoiding relegation rather than picking up silverware was Matt Doherty’s main objective when former manager Pat Fenlon came calling on the last day of the transfer window, particularly when he realised that he was one of eight new signings for the Easter Road men.

Since then, the former Bohemians defender has won over the Hibs support with several outstanding performances in the back four, and he is now looking forward to a semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden Park next month.

Although signed by Fenlon for Bohs, Doherty never played a competitive game for the club before being spotted by Wolves in a pre-season friendly against them. Former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy was so impressed; he paid a reported £75k for the young defender, and awarded him a two year contract. So far he has played two games for the Premier League club, against Doncaster and Liverpool, and is considered a player with huge potential by the Molineux faithful.

Semi-final opponents Aberdeen are currently ten points and three places above Hibs and are enjoying a run of 13 matches undefeated but, in three games between the sides this season, only a disputed penalty at Pittodrie, for which Dons youngster Peter Pawlett received a two match ban for diving, separated the teams. The other two matches, both played at Easter Road, ended in no-scoring draws, leaving the semi-final finely balanced, with both Pat Fenlon and Craig Brown equally determined to reward their supporters for a poor season.

The Dublin born youngster told the Edinburgh Evening News: “When we came to Hibs we were all people who did not know each other, but that has worked for us. The boys have all settled in well, we’re looking solid at the back and playing with a lot of confidence going forward.

“We’ve been keeping clean sheets and even if we are not winning every match we have been creating chances in all of our games which has given everyone a boost.”

“I thought Somerset Park was great, a nice little stadium. I thought the fans, packed in and standing round three sides of the ground made for a real cup-tie feeling.

“Now we are swapping that for Hampden with more than 52,000 seats and I’m sure it will be almost full when the semi comes around. It’s something for us all to look forward to. I have to admit that it’s a real bonus.

“When I came to Hibs all I was thinking about was the league games to be played but then I found out after we’d beaten Kilmarnock that if we were to win at Ayr we’d be playing at Hampden.

“It will be my first semi- final at this level of football; we’ll be up for the game just as Aberdeen will. It’s a chance for us to win a bit of silverware this club hasn’t had in a long time and while it won’t be easy, in Cup football things can go your way on the day.”

Doherty was surprised to find himself playing at left back in the quarter final tie, after replacing Gambian internationalist Pa Kujabi who had felt ill at half-time.

He said: “I thought I’d be going in alongside James McPake with Paul Hanlon going out but the gaffer asked me how I was at left back. I just wanted to get on the pitch so I told him ‘fine’, and it worked out just that.”

If Doherty wants to know what it’s like to play at the national stadium, he need only ask Wolves team mate Steven Fletcher who reserved arguably his best performance in the green jersey, scoring twice against Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final, exactly five years ago this Sunday.

All thoughts of Hampden have been put on hold this week however as Hibs play city rivals Hearts at Tynecastle, determined to end a run of nine derbies going back three years without a victory. With fellow relegation candidates Dunfermline idle this weekend, Doherty knows that a victory would move them seven points clear and provide a huge boost in the fight against the drop.

He said: “I’ve heard all about it, it’s a massive game for both clubs and it would be even nicer to win away from home. It’s a chance to pull ourselves that bit further away from Dunfermline. We’ll be going into it with confidence.”

Midfielder Isaiah Osbourne will miss the derby through suspension as will Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas. The match kicks off at 1200 on Sunday and will be shown live on ESPN.

Evolution of a Journeyman

Long after the much heralded Cork City side of the mid noughties had departed for pastures new, one man journeyed from club to club seeking to make the cut abroad.

The Turners Cross faithful had grown accustomed to seen their star players been plucked from their ranks and fast tracked into English football. Few would have predicted the impression that stars such as Kevin Doyle and Shane Long would have had following their move across the Irish Sea. The duo became successful at Reading before heading on to their current clubs and are now regulars in the Irish set up.

Other players to have left Leeside during the good times included John O`Flynn, George O`Callaghan and Roy O`Donovan, all of whom enjoyed little success until now.

O`Flynn is currently plying his trade with Exeter City while O`Callaghan currently lines out in Brunei but it Is O`Donovan who is really coming into his own now.

O`Donovan began his career as a trainee at Coventry City only to be shafted and forced to return home to Ireland like many others who failed to make the cut. Some gave up on their careers while others became ever the more determined to succeed hoping their performances would earn them a second crack at the English game.  After making his debut for his native Cork in 2005, O`Donovan began to catch the eye bagging 31 goals in 74 appearances. His potential was further highlighted during his performances in the Intertoto Cup scoring against Swedish club Hammarby.

Potential interest from Wolves didn’t come to much as the Rebel Army refused the English sides advances. Their ability to hold onto their prize asset eventually crumbled and O`Donovan  moved to Sunderland where he linked up with fellow Cork native Roy Keane, turning down a deal with Fulham in the process. The Black Cats paid Cork €500,000 to lure their hitman to Wearside yet his three year spell at the Stadium of Light never amounted to anything. After only a handful of appearances O`Donovan was sent out on loan lining out for Dundee United, Blackpool, Southend United and Hartlepool amongst others. It was only at Hartlepool where he began to show his potential that earned him his move across the water, bagging 9 goals in 15 games.

His performances for Hartlepool did enough to convince then Coventry manager Aidy Boothroyd to give him a second chance in the Sky Blue jersey. Again O`Donovan went through a goal drought and failed to establish himself as City`s number one striker.

In January of this year Scottish side Hibernian plumped for O`Donovan on loan. Newly installed Hibs manager Pat Fenlon began a recruitment drive in an attempt to keep the Edinburgh club in the top flight. Amongst his signings were ex League of Ireland duo O`Donovan and Eoin Doyle. If there was one manager capable of getting the best out of O`Donovan it would be Fenlon as the former had thwarted the latter during his glory days as manager of Shelbourne.

Little over a month into his career at Easter Road, O`Donovan is already looking like a shrewd acquisition. The Cork native seems to have finally found his perfect home and his performances have endeared himself to the Hibees faithful. He has managed to notch two goals thus far including a contender for goal of the season against Kilmarnock. O`Donovan also got on the scoresheet as Hibs saw off Ayr United in the Scottish Cup last weekend. Hibs have now advanced to a semi final date with Aberdeen as Fenlon looks to bring the elusive trophy back to Leith.

O`Donovan is full of praise for his new manager and is determined to aid Hibs cause insisting       “All I ever wanted to do was play football and Pat Fenlon has given me that chance here at Hibs. I knew Pat from the League of Ireland and playing against his teams so I always had respect for him and he’s been great for me.

“The move here has gone well for me, but it’s not just about me, I want to help Hibs drag themselves out of the position we’re in. We’re four points clear of the bottom team and we have a Cup semi-final to look forward to so it’s all going well.”

While is future is far from secured at Easter Road the former Cork City striker will be hoping his performances can earn him a permanent move to Scotland.

Fenlon’s Heading to Hampden

A professional performance from Pat Fenlon’s rejuvenated Hibs side saw the Easter Road men comfortably book their place in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final, as first half goals from Irish midfielder Roy O’Donovan and Leigh Griffiths saw off the challenge of a gritty Ayr United at Somerset Park.

What a difference a year makes.  Last January, a lacklustre Hibs team left the field to a chorus of boos after losing to Ayr United at Somerset Park, whilst the directors had to be protected from irate fans in the main stand. Only Scotland’s under- 21 captain Paul Hanlon from the current starting eleven started that game, highlighting the manager’s impact in the short time that he has been at the club.

Fenlon kept faith with the players who were unlucky to draw against St Mirren at Easter Road last week, and cup hero Eoin Doyle who had scored in the previous two rounds had to be content with a place on the bench.

A sizeable and noisy Hibs support, buoyed by the news of a late St Mirren equaliser at Tynecastle cheered every move from the old style terracing behind the goals, and their backing was rewarded with a strong start from the Easter Road men who had the ball in the net within three minutes after Ayr keeper Kevin Cuthbert spilled an Ivan Sproule shot, but Roy O’Donovan’s close range effort was ruled offside.  The Cork born midfielder however, only had to wait another two minutes to break the deadlock when he scored with a superb diving header from a George Francombe free kick.

There must be something in the Ayrshire water that agrees with the on loan Coventry star, as this was his second goal in as many games in the region.

Hibs doubled their lead after 18 minutes with a Leigh Griffiths penalty after Isaiah Osbourne was fouled in the box by Ayr defender Andrew Greggan who received a yellow card from referee Stevie McLean.  Griffiths calmly dispatched the spot kick high up to the keepers left.

Both sides created chances, although neither goalkeeper was put under any great pressure, as the action flowed from end to end.

Griffiths almost wrapped the game up just before the interval, but his long range shot went just wide. Ayr keeper Kevin Cuthbert joined his team-mate Greggan in the referee’s book for dissent as the teams were leaving the pitch.

Cuthbert did well to block another O’Donovan effort as Hibs started the second half as they had finished the first.

The SPL side continued to dominate the play throughout the second half and always looked the more likely team to score, although Ayr were unlucky when a  Smith header was kept out by Graham  Stack’s reflex save, with the keeper smothering the ball as Keigan Parker tried to force it over the line.

Fenlon used his full allocation of substitutes replacing the injured Pa Kujabi with on loan Dubliner Matt Doherty who slotted effortlessly into the left back spot, Ivan Sproule with David Wotherspoon and Leigh Griffiths with Gary O’Connor.

Paul Hanlon almost added a third with a powerful header which was cleared off the line by Tiffoney.

Ayr fans demanded a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Doherty’s arm, but the referee quite rightly deemed the incident accidental and waved the appeals away.

After the game, a delighted Pat Fenlon said: “We started off like a house on fire. We spoke about it all week, coming here with the right attitude and the players today were magnificent from start to finish. The fans have had a hard time over the last few seasons so it was good to put a smile back on their faces today. We’re through to a semi -final but they are not nice things to lose so we have to get our head around that. We’ve got big league games coming up and that’s something else to look forward to. We won’t get carried away but we will enjoy tonight as it’s been tough on the players and supporters.”

If Fenlon is to complete the dreams of the Hibernian faithful and lead them to a cup final he will have to see off the challenge of Aberdeen, while an all Edinburgh final could still be on the cards.

Ayr: Cuthbert, Tiffoney, Malone, Smith, Dodd, Moffat, Geggan, Tomsett, McGowan, Parker, Roberts. Subs: McWilliams, Wardlaw, McKernon, Ross Robertson, Armstrong.

Hibs: Stack, Francombe, Pa Saikou Kujabi, Hanlon, McPake, Claros, Osborne, Stevenson, Sproule, Griffiths, O’Donovan. Subs Brown, Wotherspoon, Doherty, O’Connor, Doyle.

Referee Steven McLean

Attendance 5991

Fenlon Wants To Reward Long Suffering Fans With Hampden Trip

Pat Fenlon will take his new look Hibs side to Somerset Park this weekend hoping to reward the long suffering Hibs fans with a victory which would see the Easter Road club returning to Hampden Park for the first time in five years. The supporters need no reminding that Hibs have gone out of the tournament to lower division opponents for the last two years.  Only Paul Hanlon and David Wotherspoon remain from the side which lost to Saturday’s opponents Ayr United last January, highlighting the extensive changes made by the former Shelbourne and Bohemians manager, who believes that victory could kick-start their season and help bring the lapsed supporters back to Easter Road.

The Colin Calderwood era saw thousands of fans deserting the club, with attendances dropping under the 8000 mark, and the manager   is desperate to see them return. Although results have not been great since his arrival, there has been a noted improvement in performance and attitude of the players, facts which have not gone unnoticed by the Hibs faithful.

Apart from a heavy defeat by Champions elect Celtic at Easter Road, Hibs have more than matched the other teams in the league, and produced their best performance of the season with a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, leaving them four points above fellow relegation candidates Dunfermline.

This week sees the launch of the club’s annual season ticket sales, and while many predict another fall in numbers, Pat Fenlon insists that a good cup run followed by a victory over city rivals Hearts on St Patrick’s day weekend will convince the lapsed supporters that he is the man to take the club back to their rightful place in the Scottish game.

Earlier this week he told the club website:

“It’s a big two weeks for us, we’ve got a quarter final in the cup which gives us a massive chance of getting through to a semi-final, then we’ve got a big derby game on St Patrick’s Day weekend, so it’s a big couple of weekends where we can set our season alight if we can win both games.

“I think the supporters who have been through to watch recent games can see the desire. We’re trying to build a unity around the club so we’re moving forward together as one.

“I think that when I came to the club that was missing a little bit. I think the atmosphere around the training ground is better now.

“We’re trying to build that all over the place with players and supporters so everyone is in the fight together.

“Hopefully the club can move forward. Success for me would be to see an extra couple of thousand people coming through the turnstiles on a regular basis.

“We’ve got to try and get people back to Easter Road who have a big interest in the club but have maybe fallen away.

“We’re working really hard to get the good times back at Hibs. There are a few targets for us including that we become the number one club again within our city.

“Those are our challenges that we get people back within the ground, overturn our poor form in relation to Hearts and to see if we can get through to a cup final which would be massive for everyone at the club.

“There are a lot of positives the moment although I know that there have been a lot of negatives over the past couple of seasons but at the moment, I think the club is looking up and moving forward.”

The manager is delighted that on loan midfielder Tom Soares who scored twice at Rugby Park, has recovered from his dead leg and will be fit to join the Irish contingent of Graham Stack, Matt Doherty, Roy O’Donovan,Richie Towell and Eoin Doyle in the squad for the cup tie.

Club captain Ian Murray however has warned his team mates about the danger of complacency. The veteran defender whose season has been blighted by injury recalls the pain of losing out to the ‘Honest Men’ last year.  He said: “The worst thing we can do is to underestimate them, then we will come away with nothing.”

As all followers of Scottish football know, Hibs last won the Scottish Cup in 1902, but  Pat Fenlon points out, the manager that day was also a proud Irishman. Whether he can emulate the legendry Dan McMichael and bring the silverware back to Leith remains to be seen, but there is a quiet optimism around the club that has been missing for several years.

Turbulent Period Ends In Victory for Fenlon’s Hibs

AS HIBS LINED UP to face Celtic in the SPL on Sunday, they sat joint on points at the foot of the table with Dunfermline, with the Edinburgh side ahead only on goal difference. Three games – and sixteen goals – later, and Hibernian have a three-point gap above the relegation spot with a game in hand. The calm waters of Leith’s harbour give lie to the tumultuous fortunes of its football team. This comes as no surprise to the time-weathered followers of Hibernian, though for Pat Fenlon the experience may well be one that requires adjustment.

SPL-leaders Celtic visited Easter Road on Sunday 19th February. Neil Lennon’s side were in emphatic form, currently enjoying a record-breaking winning streak in the Scottish top flight, and their visit to the capital city continued in a similar vein. Fenlon’s side suffered a 5-0 defeat in a flat performance which, despite Celtic’s current form, served as an alarming wake up call to everyone involved with Hibernian who now teetered on the brink of the relegation zone.

A mid-week trip to Motherwell offered Hibs the chance of a respite from the hangover induced by Sunday’s heavy defeat. Motherwell, emboldened by the recent 10 point sanction place upon Rangers as they entered into administration, could begin to look above and beyond their 3rd place standing. Their recent form would suggest that they would be favourites ahead of Hibs, though most observers whom are familiar with the SPL will recognise this fixture as an entirely unpredictable affair, in no small part due to a 6-6 scoreline here in 2010.

Wednesday’s game was equally as compelling. Hibernian, bolstered by a sizable travelling support, took the game to the hosts early on. The visitors looked confident and dangerous in attack. Yet a return to some all-too familiar failings for Pat Fenlon’s team allowed ‘Well back into the game. It was a hard-fought encounter in which Hibs’ prowess going forward and in the middle of the park was undone by repeated defensive mistakes – including the gifting of two penalties by young Irishman Matt Doherty. The game finished 4-3. The enthrallment of the neutral offered scant consolation for Fenlon and his players.

To end the week, Hibernian travelled to Kilmarnock, eager to dispel the disappointment of the previous two matches. Fenlon had made a couple of key changes to the side that lost at Motherwell, replacing Matt Doherty with Pa Kujabi in defence and Irish forward Roy O’Donovan taking the place of Garry O’Connor. It was an astute reshuffle which appeared to banish the woes of the week that had passed. Central to Hibernian’s performance on Saturday was the return from injury of Tom Soares, on loan from Stoke City. Two goals from Soares and a fine 25 yard strike from O’Donovan saw Hibernian record a crucial 3-1 victory over Kenny Shiels’ Kilmarnock side.

The sense of relief around the Easter Road club was palpable as Fenlon recorded his second league win with the club, though the Hibs boss urged caution. “It’s one win, nothing else. If we can get on a little bit of a roll, that will help us”, Fenlon told the BBC. “It’s a massive game at home to St Mirren next week. It’s important that we stay focused.”

There is breathing space now between the bottom two clubs in Scottish Premier League. Fenlon’s plea for focus will need to be heeded if Hibs are to part from their capricious habits.

Doyle sends new-look Hibs into the last eight of the Scottish Cup

The excitement in the cold winter air was palpable around Easter Road on Saturday, as Hibs prepared to face Kilmarnock in 5th round of the Scottish Cup. Despite league woes continuing, having suffered a four nil defeat to Rangers in Glasgow the previous weekend, Pat Fenlon’s dramatic overhaul of the squad in the closing stages of the January transfer window prompted a welcome wave of optimism amongst the supporters.

From kick-off, this optimism was given justification. Hibs pressed ahead, applying early pressure as Tom Soares strode forward with the ball from his own half and forcing a fine save from Killie ‘keeper Cammy Bell with an effort from range. The resulting corner saw the ball hit the back of the net, only for the goal to be somewhat controversially disallowed by the referee for an alleged infringement by Garry O’Connor. Yet Hibs were soon legitimately ahead, after some neat link up play which saw Eoin Doyle cleverly nod the ball on to Soares to the right of the goal, who proceeded to cut the ball back to Doyle. The resulting strike found the back of the Kilmarnock goal as Doyle claimed his first goal at Easter Road and his second in the cup competition.

Soares and Doyle, after showing examples of effective link-up play at Ibrox last week, appear to be continuing on in that direction. From other areas of the park too, quality of service is increasing to Doyle’s benefit. David Wotherspoon’s pin point cross from the left-wing found the Irish forward at the far post, though with the resulting header looping over. Into the second half, left-back Pa Saikou Kujabi impressed on his first outing in front of the Hibs supporters with a rampaging surge forward up the left flank, feeding the ball through to Doyle with a perfectly timed and placed ball. Doyle was unable to double his tally as Bell saved the low shot, yet Hibs were showing a desire and finesse in going forward that had been lacking in recent months.

Yet it was in defence that the biggest change could be noted. Fenlon’s Hibs have been much criticised for slack defending in recent games, with the shambolic goals lost at Ibrox last weekend being a case in point for the season so far. Kilmarnock, who have gained plaudits this season for their attacking style, pressed forward in search for an equaliser as the game progressed. Yet Hibs held their grounded solidly and astutely, with the home support cheering every block, tackle, and aerial battle won. The new signings were thoroughly effective in this regard. Matt Doherty thwarted Killie attempts to at the Hibs goal with some fine tackling, and James McPake followed suit, throwing his body in the way of a James Fowler volley which seemed certain to hit the target as the Hibs defence again repelled Kilmarnock’s advances.

Hibs held on to their lead to claim a one nil victory and passage through to the last eight of the cup. “They’re a good team and they caused us problems but our work-rate and our defensive shape was fantastic”, Fenlon told the BBC. This was a much changed Hibs side in both look and demeanour, yet the most noticeable improvement was in their attitude. This was a confident and assured performance, and Fenlon’s work at the Edinburgh club appears to be paying dividends. Hibs will hope to carry this positivity into their league campaign as the battle to move away from the relegation zone and up the table continues next Saturday with a home tie against Aberdeen.

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