Posts Tagged ‘ Graham Stack ’

Irish Duo Leave Hibs

Former Republic of Ireland under 21 goalkeeper Graham Stack has become the latest Hibs player to leave the club after he was notified that his contract will not be extended. The 30 year old was signed by John Hughes three years ago, but a series of injuries have resulted in him only playing 61 times.

This season, he finally became the number one choice, taking over from Mark Brown, but a torn thigh muscle sustained in the semi-final against Aberdeen ended his Easter Road career and meant that he missed the Cup Final defeat last Saturday.

The former Arsenal player was a popular figure around the club and messaged his disappointment to fans via Facebook saying: “After 3 seasons at Hibernian I’m sad and gutted to have played my last game. It’s a Club that me and my Family have loved from day one and a City that’s became our home. Fans I’ve met along the way have been brilliant and will not be forgotten

“Those who have stuck by me through my injuries and picked me up when things on the pitch were bad i can’t thank you enough. It’s been a mixed journey of ups and downs, finishing 4th in my first season and getting into Europe was a real high as well reaching the Scottish Cup final more recently and saving a penalty in the Derby at Easter Rd.

“My biggest regret is to have not won any Silverware and missing so much football in my second season. I’d like to think having played 35 games this season I’ve shown people i can stay fit and played my part in keeping us up. I’ve now got to move on with my life and career and have no idea where it will go but one thing is for sure i can leave knowing whenever I’ve put the Hibs strip on I’ve given nothing less than everything to perform at my best and win every game!

“ I know everyone is still hurting after the weekend but i firmly believe it is a ”Great Club” and changes do need to be made but in years to come it will achieve a top 3 finish and will win The Scottish Cup and no one deserves it more than the supporters!! Thanks for everything STACKY and FAMILY X X X”

Stack’s exit was confirmed 24 hours after Hibs released club captain Ian Murray and young players Scott Taggart and Sean Welsh.

Garry O’Connor who is also out of contract has confirmed that he will not be signing an extension, whilst loan players George Francombe, Matt Doherty, Roy O’Donovan, Tom Soares, Richie Towell, Leigh Griffiths and James McPake have all returned to their parent clubs.

Fenlon has indicated that he may be talking to some of their clubs when the players concerned return from holidays, and the supporters are desperate to for the club to sign James McPake from relegated Coventry. The influential centre half was called up by Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neil for the forthcoming friendly against Holland. McPake qualifies for Northern Ireland through his Antrim born grandfather on his mother’s side.

Former Bohemians defender and Dublin native Matt Doherty confirmed that there is ‘no chance’ of him being at Easter Road next season in an interview after the final.

Uncertainty Hampers Fenlon’s Plans For Next Season

As the Easter Road ticket office staff work overtime trying to deal with the large queues, and the conversations in the pubs and clubs of Leith have only one topic, Hibs manager Pat Fenlon has much more on his plate than the forthcoming Scottish Cup final.

Until the club are mathematically safe from relegation, his preparations for next season are on hold, although the former Bohs boss realises that another massive change in playing staff will be necessary if the club is to progress. Goalkeepers Graham Stack and Mark Brown will soon be out of contract along with Ian Murray and Garry O’Connor, whilst Leigh Griffiths and Richie Towell along with January arrivals James McPake, Tom Soares, Matt Doherty and Roy O’Donovan are all due to return to their parent clubs.

Media speculation has linked Hibs with Partick Thistle’s Paul Cairney, Dundee United’s Leith-born winger Danny Swanson, Barry Nicholson of Preston North End and Morton’s French youngster Fouad Bachirou, but Fenlon is frustrated that he cannot sign up the players he wants until he knows which division the club will be playing in next year.

Fenlon said: “We’ve been watching players, we’ve had people out all over the place watching games looking at players for next season but at the moment I’m not in a position to do anything.

“In relation to the players already here who we want to keep, we want to be able to give them that peace of mind as well. But we are in control of our own destiny.”

This weekend could see Hibs virtually safe if they can get all three points at New Love Street on Sunday and Dunfermline lose to Aberdeen at East End Park. These results would see Hibs nine points clear with three games to go, but if they went the other way, then only three points would separate the teams who have yet to meet.

Skipper James McPake has also banished all thoughts of Hampden from his mind as he prepares for the trip to Paisley, and warns his team mates about the threat from the Pars who fought back from 4-2 down last week to gain a point.

The former Livingston defender said: “Of course they’ll see a bit of hope, they’ve gained a point on us. But they still need two wins, perhaps three because of our superior goal difference but that can turn.

“Games may be running out but that point could prove to be massive if we do not get our heads right and get the victories we need to keep us in this league. There’s no way a club of this size should be fighting for its SPL status at this stage of the season but just being a big club doesn’t give you any divine right.

“We cannot talk about the cup because we are in a bad position, second bottom of the league albeit we are six points clear with four games remaining. But things can quickly turn. If we are thinking about the cup and have that in our heads then we’ll get a shock because we’ll be going to Inverness for our last game of the season either behind Dunfermline or needing to win to stay in this division.

“For this club that’s criminal. I’ve said from day one a club this size has to be in the SPL, there’s no doubt about it. The cup final is nothing compared to staying in the SPL for me.”

Meanwhile, Hibs beat Sunderland 1-0 in a closed-doors match on Wednesday, their goal coming via the penalty spot from former Sligo Rovers striker Eoin Doyle.

Cup Final Heartache For Fans As Fenlon Prepares For Killie Visit

Thousands of Hibs fans could be left disappointed as the club have announced that public sales of cup final tickets are unlikely.

After a meeting with the SFA at Hampden Park on Thursday to finalise the number of tickets available, the distribution details were later reported on the official website.

The national stadium holds 52,063 which takes into account of a number of debenture-held seats, owned mainly by old-firm fans, plus those for hospitality and the media. Initially both clubs have been allocated just over 20,000 tickets, with Hibs getting the traditional Celtic end of Hampden. Tickets for the north and south stands are priced at £35 with the east stand, behind the goal costing £28. A limited number of concession tickets will also be available at £10. Any debenture-held seats not taken up will be distributed to the clubs at a later date.

Club members, season ticket holders for the current season and fans who have bought a season ticket for next season will be given priority. Supporters who have a season ticket and have already renewed for next season will be allowed to buy two cup final tickets.

Hibs have always refused to divulge the number of season ticket holders, and whilst the board attempted to put a positive spin on the figures for this season, regular attenders can see the large number of empty seats each week.

The allocation process is designed to maximise the profit by encouraging supporters to buy a season ticket for next season, but many fans fear that the membership scheme which cost £20 and guarantees ticket priority will be seen as a better option and may discourage existing season ticket holders from renewing.

Meanwhile Pat Fenlon is under no illusion about the importance of the remaining five league games, with the team still not safe from relegation, and the former Bohs manager is determined to gain his first home SPL victory since his appointment in November. Hibs play Kilmarnock on Sunday having beaten them earlier this season at Rugby Park and also in the Scottish cup at Easter Road when a Eoin Doyle goal separated the teams.

He said: “The game on Sunday is bigger as far as I’m concerned. The job I was brought here to do was to keep Hibs in the league and anything after that is a bonus.

“We’ve told the boys to get their heads around the games we have to play. There’s too many important games coming up and we have to make sure the club is in the premier division come the end of the season. The focus is about surviving and we’re nowhere near safe at the moment.”

Tom Soares is doubtful and Graham Stack is out for the rest of the season with a thigh injury however club captain Ian Murray is nearing a return after a long-term injury.

Fenlon said: “We’re very fortunate to have a very good goalkeeper to come in. Mark Brown has played at a very high level with two of the biggest clubs in Scotland so it doesn’t faze him.

“Ian Murray is doing well, he played in a bounce game and he’s coming along. It’s making sure that we don’t overload him; because of the nature of the injury it’s important that we train him properly.

“We’d love to get him back in the fold because he’s an experienced player and at this stage of the season that’s what we’re looking for.”

Injury blow for Fenlon as Stack misses final

Pat Fenlon has been dealt a huge blow with the news that first choice goalkeeper Graham Stack will miss the Scottish Cup Final against city rivals Hearts on May 19 due to an injury picked up during Saturday’s win over Aberdeen.

The former Republic of Ireland under 21 international was forced to leave the field having suffered a thigh injury and had his worst fears confirmed by a specialist following a scan which revealed the muscle had been torn from the bone.

Stack is likely to be out of action for three months, which puts a question mark over his Easter Road future as he is out of contract in a few weeks.

He broke the news to Hibs fans via Twitter and said: “I’m devastated, completely crushed. I knew at the time it felt bad but you’ve always got that feeling of hope it might be okay.

“I went for a scan in the morning and was given some hope. The doctor told me it didn’t seem as bad as he thought, so I felt pretty positive. Then I got the call about five o’clock to tell me the bad news.

“It’s the worst game I could have missed. It’s a huge game and I won’t be anywhere near it. It’s the worst possible news I could have had. I’ve been told that I’ve detached my quad from the bone and will be out for ten to 12 weeks.

“After staying injury free this season, apart from a slight calf strain, and starting 35 games I felt I was in the best physical condition possible. It looks like I will have to take a back seat and watch from the stands while my pals stay in the SPL and win the Scottish Cup.

“It was meant to be the best and biggest day in my career and it’s been taken away from me. I might not be out there with a strip on but I will be with the lads every step of the way, including the ones at Hampden.”

“Missing it is bad enough but to be injured when I am out of contract as well couldn’t be worse. My whole summer, my whole life is up in the air. The only thing that fixes it is rest, there’s no operation for it. I now face a long hard summer of rehab and trying to get fit.”

The former Arsenal and Brighton player was signed by John Hughes and fought off competition from Graeme Smith and Mark Brown to secure the number one jersey.

Meanwhile Fenlon has admitted that the semi-final victory had already been consigned to memory, and as the Hibs fans celebrated through the night, Fenlon was back in Ireland planning for the future.

He said: “When you win things, even matches on a week-to-week basis, you enjoy it for about half an hour. Even if it has been league titles or cup finals in Ireland, I’ve had about a day of enjoyment and then it’s back to work. It’s straight on to the next job and developing the next plan.

“The time for looking back and savouring days or achievements come when your career is over. You’ll have plenty of time then.

“After the semi we needed to get straight into doing a couple of things on Sunday. I needed to watch a couple of players and it was important to start moving on immediately.

“The Cup Final is further down the road and we have so many big games and things to do before then. We know it’s Hearts and we’ll be able to do our work on that nearer the time but there are more pressing matters at hand.

“We have to focus on staying in the SPL and developing the entire club because that is the job me and my staff were appointed to do. From day one when we faced Cowdenbeath I said that anything achieved in this Scottish Cup run was a major bonus. The be all and end all is staying in the SPL, so it’s important we make sure we do the job we set out to do when we first walked into the club.”

“We want the players to take some belief out of what they have done in the Scottish Cup. They have reached the Final and that’s a fantastic achievement from anyone’s point of view.

“There are many good, good players who have graced Scottish football and never managed to reach that final. That has to give confidence and instil the belief that they are a good side.

“We have proved that in the Scottish Cup, now it’s up to us to get safe as soon as possible in the SPL.

When Fenlon arrived at Easter Road, the lack of confidence amongst the players was apparent for all to see, and seldom did the team leave the field without a chorus of boos from the stands. Since then, there has been a large turnover of personnel and although results at home have not improved, there is no doubt that the relationship between the players and fans has improved dramatically.

The former Bohs manager said “There are people in our group who had been battered from all angles for eight months and that has a draining effect on people. We brought in some new guys to try to change that.

“Questions were asked as to why so many new faces arrived in January but we felt we needed individuals who did not have the mind-set that had set in already. The senior players we have brought to the club have been important on and off the pitch.

“That’s been important because there are a lot of good young players at the club but they need some guidance and to get some confidence.

“That doesn’t just come from the management; that has to come from fellow players to help on the park.”

“There is so much to play for now and the players will realise they need to perform between now and the Scottish Cup Final to have any chance of featuring at Hampden.”

“There is new belief among supporters over the past few weeks and I hope they see enough to get a belief in the people who are running their football team.

Fenlon happy with point as Motherwell stage late fightback

A late volley by Nicky Law denied Hibs their second home victory of the season after Garry O’Connor had given the Easter Road men a first half lead with a stunning 25 yard free kick.

Manager Pat Fenlon made one change from the team which beat Inverness Caledonian last Sunday with Tom Soares replacing Richie Towell. Winger Ivan Sproule who was carried off in the last few minutes with an ankle knock passed a late fitness test and retained his place in midfield.

Sproule justified Fenlon’s faith and created several chances before the home team took a deserved lead, when the  winger was brought down outside the penalty box after a mazy run. O’Connor took the resulting free kick and smashed it into the top left hand corner of the goal, leaving the Motherwell keeper helpless.

Two minutes later, Sproule tackled back and won the ball before splitting the defence with a 50 yard through ball to Leigh Griffiths whose shot was well saved.

Hibs almost doubled their lead just after half time when Soares struck the bar from thirty yards, with Randolph well beaten.

Referee Stevie O’Reilly infuriated the home support with a series of questionable decisions.

Both sides created chances as the Steelmen tried to get back into the game. Higdon soon had a great chance when Humphrey’s cross found him six yards out but the striker headed over. Lasley and Hutchinson had shots blocked as Motherwell pushed forward, and Randolph had to stretch to save from O’Connor.

Hibs left-back Pa Kujabi whose nickname is the African Roberto Carlos had an opportunity to demonstrate why, when he volunteered to take a direct free kick forty yards from the goal. The Easter Road faithful held their breath as he took a long run up before completely mishitting the ball causing much laughter from the crowd and also his team mates as the ball trickled just past the corner flag.

Motherwell levelled with 10 minutes left when Law volleyed home from the edge of the box after a Lasley cross was headed out by Soares.

Both sides had chances to win the match, but the game finished in a draw which both managers felt was fair.

After the game, Fenlon said; “We weathered a bit of a storm in the second half all right but a draw is probably a fair result. I thought we played really well first half. We passed the ball well and looked a bit sprightlier at home than we have done.

“The second half we came under a bit of a cosh but we are happy enough with a share of the points. We need spirit, fight and determination and in the last two games we have shown that.

“We are looking forward to next week. There’s been a lot of pressure on the players in the last few months in relation to the relegation battle and we have given ourselves a bit of a cushion”.

The result leave Hibs a comfortable seven points clear of Dunfermline with five games remaining. The Easter Road outfit also have a vastly superior goal difference.

Hibs: Stack, McPake, Kujabi, Hanlon, Doherty, Soares, Sproule, Stevenson, Osbourne, Griffiths, O’Connor, Doyle, Francombe, Brown, Claros, O’Hanlon. O’Donovan, Wotherspoon

Motherwell: Randolph, Hateley, , Hutchinson, Page Clancy, Carswell, Humphrey, Law, Lasley, Higdon, Ojamaa,  Subs: Saunders Murphy, McHugh, Forbes, Daley, Hollis, Halsman.

Attendance 7110

Hibs take points in five goal thriller

A late Leigh Griffiths’ strike saw Hibs take all three points against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, and move Pat Fenlon’s men six points clear of Dunfermline in the battle against relegation.

Fenlon made four changes to the team that lost to Dundee United last weekend, with skipper James McPake, Richie Towell, Ivan Sproule and Garry O’Connor replacing George Francomb, Jorge Claros, Tom Soares and Roy O’Donovan.

Caley dominated the first half and Graham Stack twice made good saves to deny Shinnie.

Just before the break, Billy McKay beat the offside trap and thought he had scored when he slipped the ball past Stack, only to see it rebound off the post.

Terry Butcher’s men took the lead when Greg Tansey scored a soft penalty after Paul Hanlon was adjudged to have fouled Billy McKay in the box.

Four minutes later, the Scotland under 21 captain made amends for his error with a header from a Griffiths’ corner.

Inverness should have regained the lead when Tade pounced on a deflection and found himself one on one with the keeper, but Stack was able save his close range shot.

After 75 minutes, Garry O’Connor justified his inclusion in the team by putting Fenlon’s men ahead after an excellent run by on loan right back Matt Doherty.

Inverness fought back, and equalised eight minutes later when Stack misjudged a Johnny Hayes cross.

Both clubs pressed for a winner, and with five minutes go, Griffiths held off an Inverness defender before striking a magnificent lest foot shot past the helpless Tuffey from the edge of the box, to the delight of the travelling Hibs fans behind the goals.

Eoin Doyle replaced O’Connor, and the former Sligo Rovers striker cleared off the line in injury time to ensure the three points headed south to Leith.

The victory now leaves Hibs six points clear of Dunfermline who lost 3-0 to Dundee United yesterday, with one game to go before the break. Hibs play Motherwell at Easter Road next week, whilst The Pars entertain Hearts at East End Park.

After the game, a delighted Fenlon said: “”It’s a fantastic three points. We rode our luck at times and Graham Stack has had to make some great saves but I felt we deserved it as we’ve not always had the rub of the green ourselves.

“We seemed a little fearful in the first half and sat back, but we showed what we are capable of as a team in the second half and hopefully now the players will take some belief from that.”

Inverness: Tuffey, Tokley, Golobart, Shinnie, Gillet,Meekings, Hayes, Tansey, Foran, Tade, McKay. Subs Mathieson, Proctor, Piermaya, Tudor Jones,Ross, Sutherland, Winnall

Hibs: Stack, Francomb, Pa Saikou Kujabi, Hanlon, Doherty, Claros, Osbourne, Stevenson, Soares, Griffiths, O’Donovan. Subs Brown, Claros, Soares, Doyle, O’Donovan, O’Hanlon, Francombe

Attendance 3274

More despair for Fenlon as Hibs lose to Dundee United

Hopes that inaccurate media reports would galvanise the players into a winning performance failed to materialise at a misty Easter Road yesterday, as an in-form Dundee United easily swept aside a lacklustre Hibs side, leaving Pat Fenlon’s men only three points above Dunfermline in the fight against relegation.

The former Bohs manager made two changes from the team that lost last week’s derby, with Matt Doherty replacing the injured James McPake and Isaiah Osbourne, returning from suspension, replacing David Wotherspoon. Lewis Stevenson was given the captain’s armband and Leigh Griffiths retained his place despite his involvement in a training ground bust up earlier in the week.

Dundee United started the game strongly and Graham Stack did well to save from Gavin Gunning in the first minute, before Griffiths hit the bar following a George Francomb corner.

Stack was called into action again after 11 minutes with a stunning save from Jon Daly, and Hibs responded when Osbourne went close with a header in an end to end encounter.

As the first half progressed, Hibs took command and good play by Griffiths set up Roy O’Donovan whose effort was saved by Dusan Pernis, before Griffiths went close with a header from an Osbourne cross.

Hibs dominated the rest of the first half and Pat Fenlon was the happier manager at half time.

United started the second brightly and Daly could easily have scored twice in the first three minutes with unchallenged headers in the box, before ex Hibs midfielder John Rankin blazed a shot over the bar from inside the box.

On the hour mark, Ivan Sproule replaced Tom Soares who had been largely ineffectual and Gary O’Connor came on for O’Donovan.

Hibs had an appeal for a penalty when Griffiths looked to have been impeded in the box but referee George Salmond waved play on much to the fury of the Hibs supporters.

Dundee United eventually broke the deadlock after 65 minutes. A John Rankin shot was saved by Stack but Johnny Russell was first to react and slotted the ball into the net.

Daly was replaced by ex Sligo Rovers star Richie Ryan following a head clash with Paul Hanlon which left the big Dubliner requiring stitches, and two minutes later Gary Mackay-Stevens doubled the lead with a low shot from the edge of the box after good work by Russell.

Wotherspoon replaced Claros in an effort to get back in the game but United ran out the clock for a deserved victory.

The news that Dunfermline had gained a point after coming from behind against St Mirren did little to ease the pain of the Hibs fans who showed their dissatisfaction at the final whistle, by booing the team off the pitch.

After the game, a despondent Pat Fenlon said: “In the first half, we played quite well, but we didn’t come out in the second half. We didn’t show enough desire to win the game.”

“We’ve got to realise that we’re in a major scrap. We’ve got to keep working hard, that’s all we can do.

“We thought the last three or four weeks, when we’ve picked up some decent results and we got ourselves into the semi-finals of the cup, it should give people confidence, but when we come here, we seemed to be devoid of that.

“When something goes against us, we lose that belief in ourselves and that’s what we’ve got to change in the players. They’re edgy, there’s nervous, there’s no doubt about that. But here, when we concede the first goal, we lose our shape and we drop back into ourselves and we lose confidence.”

“We’ve performed better on the road. It’s maybe the relief from not playing in front of their own supporters because I know they are edgy as well. I can totally understand that. The club is in a dogfight, so you understand people being frustrated. We knew it was going to be a scrap. We’re here to make sure we stay in the league.

“One thing I never went away from is a fight. We have to make sure everybody else realises that we’re in a scrap.”

Hibs travel to Inverness next week hoping to repeat their victory earlier this season.

Elsewhere, Kilmarnock’s defeat of Motherwell leaves Celtic needing only to avoid defeat at Ibrox today to win the title. SPL chiefs had hoped to avoid the possibility of one half of the old firm winning he league at the home of their bitter rivals, following crowd trouble at Celtic Park on the last occasion this happened.

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

Dundee United Pernis, Watson, Dillon, Gunning, Dixon, Flood, Rankin, Robertson, Mackay-Steven , Daly, Russell. Subs Banks, Kenneth, Douglas, Ryan, Swanson, Armstrong, Dow

Referee George Salmond

Attendance 9161

Avoiding relegation top priority says Fenlon after derby defeat

A Craig Beattie toe-poke and an injury time break away goal from Suso Santana was enough to see Hearts extend their unbeaten run in the Edinburgh derby to ten games, in a hard fought encounter at Tynecastle.

Pat Fenlon made two changes from the side which eased past Ayr last week, with Tom Soares replacing Ivan Sproule and David Wotherspoon taking over from Isaiah Osbourne. Hearts replaced the suspended Marius Zaliukas with Darren Barr.

Fenlon fielded six players who had not experienced the derby atmosphere, and that number increased to seven when George Francomb suffered a head injury in a clash with Rudi Skacel after seven minutes and had to be replaced by Dubliner Matt Doherty.

Hearts started brightly and could have gone ahead with an Ian Black free-kick which was deflected just over the bar, before an Andy Webster header was saved on the line by Graham Stack. Hibs only chance came from a good run by Pa Kujabi whose cross was just missed by Soares.

Hearts took the lead after 27 minutes when former Celtic forward Beattie latched onto an Ian Black pass  to toe-poke the ball past Graham Stack.

Hibs started the second half in much better form and Doherty caused the Hearts defence problems from two set pieces, before referee Craig Thomson infuriated the 1874 Hibs fans in the Roseburn stand by ignoring two blatant fouls on Pa Kujabi and Roy O’Donovan.

As the Easter Road men strived for an equaliser, only the legs of keeper McDonald denied O’Donovan with a point blank header.

Gary O’Connor replaced Wotherspoon and Eoin Doyle replaced fellow countryman O’Donovan, but neither were able to make the desired impact.

With the game in the last minute of injury time, Hibs won a corner which Pa Kujabi floated into the box. The ball was cleared and Santana took advantage of the lack of defenders to side foot the ball past Stack, to the delight of the Gorgie faithful.

Today’s result leaves Fenlon’s men 4 points ahead of Dunfermline with eight games remaining. The Fife outfit sacked manager Jim McIntyre on Friday and hope to announce a new boss before their next game against St Mirren next week, with speculation centring on former Hearts boss Jim Jeffries who was in the stand today.

With Hearts in the top six and Hibs stranded near the bottom, the sides will not meet again in the SPL this season, although there is the possibility that they could face each other at Hampden in the Scottish Cup Final.

After the game, a dejected Pat Fenlon admitted his team had not deserved to win, but claimed that avoiding relegation was his top priority.

The former Bohemians manager said: I’m disappointed, we didn’t start the game. We were never at the game in the first half and we gave Hearts too much respect and too much time on the ball. The second half was a bit better but the game could have been over by half-time.

“We knew coming here that we were fighting for our lives and we hadn’t won a derby in a long time, we should have been in about Hearts and in their faces from the start, but we weren’t.

“I feel for the supporters today, I know what it’s like, but it’s now about survival for the club and we can rectify the situation against Hearts another day – but we need to make sure we’re in the league to play against them next season.”

Hearts:  MacDonald, Grainger, Webster, McGowan, Barr, Black, Driver, Taouil, Skacel, Beattie, Elliott.  Subs: Rigders, McGowan, Santana, Holt, Novikovas, Glen, Robinson.

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

Referee Craig Thomson

Attendance 15,128

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.

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