Posts Tagged ‘ Fife ’

Relegation battle looks like two horse race

Even the most confident Hibs fans have to concede that Saturday’s results make it more and more likely that the relegation battle is now a two horse race between Hibs and Dunfermline.

With two games to go before the split, Hibs face a daunting trip to Inverness before taking on European hopefuls Motherwell at Easter Road, while the Pars face in-form Dundee United at Tannadice then Hearts at East End Park.

Pat Fenlon’s men are currently three points ahead with a superior goal difference. The teams will meet again after the split, and although the fixtures have yet to be announced the game is likely to be played at Easter Road as the clubs have met twice in Fife and once in Leith.

This may not be such good news for Hibs given that they have only won once at home this season whilst Dunfermline have yet to record a victory on their own turf.

In the first meeting, Dunfermline came back from a two goal deficit to gain a draw, whilst the game at Easter Road finished in a single goal victory for the Pars, which resulted in calls for the board to quit and led to the sacking of Colin Calderwood. When Pat Fenlon took his side to East End Park in January, a late Leigh Griffiths goal saw the three points heading back over the River Forth, and most Hibs fans thought that the threat of relegation had gone.

Since then, Dunfermline have sacked manager Jim McIntyre and replaced him with veteran Jim Jefferies, a move that worries Hibs legend Jackie McNamara (snr).

McNamara, who spent nine years at Hibs as a player after arriving in a controversial swap deal with Celtic for Pat Stanton, and then served as assistant manager under Jim Duffy, is a season ticket holder at Easter Road and never misses a home game.

He told the Daily Record: “I don’t hold out a lot of hope. We’ve won just one of our last 21 league games at home, how scary is that?

“Wins over Cowdenbeath, Ayr United and Kilmarnock have taken us to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup but that has just papered over the cracks and given the fans false hope.

“I was at the Dundee United match on Saturday and this is a team that is totally lacking in confidence. It has been drained out of them. They need to do something quickly if they’re to avoid going down and I don’t know if they’re capable of that.

“Every point is a prisoner and I don’t see any battlers out there. We need someone like John Hughes, who would roll his sleeves up, get stuck in and lead by example.

“Meanwhile, Jim Jefferies will have his players fighting and fired up for every one of the seven remaining games.”

If Hibs do go down to the first division, McNamara insists the blame can be laid at the door of chairman Rod Petrie and his policy of changing managers.

“The one consolation is that we aren’t in as bad a fix as Rangers but that won’t help us if we go down. This is all a result of Petrie’s hiring and firing.

“He appoints a manager, lets him bring in players who aren’t good enough then sacks him and the whole process begins again.

“Not only do we have a squad which isn’t good enough but there’s also no chance for them to gel or play with cohesion.

“There are some good young players being left out at the moment and I only hope that’s being done to protect them.

“We travel to Inverness on Sunday and I fear the worst. Terry Butcher’s team know how to battle but there aren’t any signs that we can.”

Hibs full-back Pa Kujabi however is confident that the team have to skill and attitude to keep them in the SPL.

The Gambian international said: “It was hard for everyone in the team to lose again. We do have character and we want to get out of this situation but sometimes it’s difficult when you go on the pitch.

“I’ve been in this situation once before; when I was with Grazer AK in Austria. But we were only fighting relegation because we had been deducted 10 points after going into administration.

“Some players became lazy as a result but that’s not the case here. At Hibs, we are willing to do more. The guys train hard and give it their best, I don’t know why there’s a problem on the pitch.

“Everyone is frustrated and I’m sure the players and manager will talk. No one wants to be in this position, we want to be somewhere in the middle of the table.

“I’m positive. I believe we can stay in this league but we should not look down all the time. Let’s look up, and prepare to fight week in and week out.”

After Saturday’s battling comeback against St Mirren, Jefferies praised the attitude of his squad. He said: “The players have 100% commitment, desire and will to do it, but there has to be a bit more quality and bit more savvy in some of the things we do.

“We’re a point better off and there’s a lot of games still to play. With two games until the split, we need to hang in there and do what we can. Hopefully, we’ll do it.”

At least there is some good news coming from the Hibs camp, with influential skipper James McPake confident that he will be fit to start on Sunday. The game is being shown live on ESPN with a 3pm kick off.


Fenlon claims first Hibs win

This weekend provided a break from league action as the Scottish Cup reached the fourth round stage. Hibs were handed a tough test at the Fife home of 2nd Division leaders Cowdenbeath. A dismal recent record and languishing a point above bottom placed Dunfermline in the Scottish Premier League, it was the top flight side whom many expected would struggle.

Hibs have had a troubled relationship with the Scottish Cup throughout the club’s 137 year history. This is a tournament – the oldest national cup in world football – that the Edinburgh side have failed to win since 1902. In their last two campaigns in this competition Hibs have met their fate at the hands of lower league opponents. A trip to First Division Ross County under then manager John Hughes in 2010 resulted in a premature end to that season’s cup run, with a similar end being suffered by Colin Calderwood’s Hibs side in 2011 after an away defeat again to a First Division side, Ayr United.

Yet Hibs supporters hoped that their team would not suffer the same outcome under new boss Pat Fenlon, despite a home defeat to local rivals Hearts in their last league outing. The meticulous Fenlon has taken a robust approach to the squad he has inherited, having already dropped Aggogo and Thornhill from the side, with more expected to follow. Striker Leigh Griffiths has had his loan spell from Wolves extended and, in the first real indication of Fenlon’s vision for his Hibernian side, Irishman Eoin Doyle has joined the club from Sligo Rovers who made his first start at Saturday’s fixture.

However, it took just 19 seconds for Hibs’ recent woes to be compounded. The second division side scored in their first surge forward, with Greg Stewart easily outmanoeuvring Sean O’Hanlon on the turn before finishing past the Hibs keeper. An upset appeared to be on the cards. Despite this early setback, the SPL side began to gain a foothold in the game. On the 18th minute Cowdenbeath player-manager Colin Cameron gifted possession away in their own half, with the former Hearts man allowing Leigh Griffiths to fire a rasping shot from 25 yards that clipped the inside of the crossbar before finding the net.

With the tie level, it was Hibernian who pressed forward. Doyle posed a threat to the Cowdenbeath defence, forcing a save with a curled shot from the edge of the box. Just shy of the half-hour mark, the former Sligo Rovers hitman opened his goalscoring account with his new club. Michael Hart’s pass found the Irishman in the 6 yard box who slotted home on the rebound after his first attempt was blocked by Cowdenbeath keeper Thomas Flynn.

Doyle again asked questions of the home defence, with a scrambled clearance off the goal line after a deft head flick from Hibs’ new number 10. Griffith’s sublime first strike was almost imitated, though the long range free kick found the wrong side of the crossbar this time. Hibs extended their lead in the second half after Danny Galbraith proved elusive for the home defence on the flank, the resulting cross being met at the near post by the head of David Wotherspoon to bring the Capital side’s tally to three.

Yet a nervy finish was ensured after Cowdenbeath struck again. John Robertson showed great individual skill and composure to chip a ball over Hibs defender O’Hanlon before striking a neat volley to finish. The young forward was presented with a opportunity to draw the home side level not long after, with Hibs looking like the tie could slip away from them. Robertson’s sliced shot went way adrift of the target, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from Hibs supporters at the game and listening at home across the country as the Edinburgh side ensured a place in the next round and Fenlon earned his first victory as manager of Hibernian.

Ahead of the next round of the Scottish Cup, there are much more pressing issues at hand. Another visit to Fife beckons for Fenlon’s side, who face Dunfermline Athletic in a game that could well determine how the rest of the season will follow for two teams eager to retain their SPL status. Fenlon will hope to take some confidence from Saturday’s cup success, though a tough task remains ahead for the Irishman if Hibs are to reverse their fortunes in the SPL.