Posts Tagged ‘ Scottish Cup ’

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.”


Scottish Cup Final is all Edinburgh affair

There will be an all Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final this year after Hearts beat Celtic with a hotly disputed last minute Craig Beattie penalty. Celtic boss  Neil Lennon was furious at the decision and confronted the referee Euan Norris on the pitch after the final whistle. He is likely to be in trouble with the SFA after tweeting “Referee told players he thought Wanyama handled…feel so sorry for players and fans. I think it’s personal myself,” and also re-tweeting a comment from a supporter which suggested that Celtic should “pack our bags and get out of this league that is run by crooked £SFA officials”.

The final will be played on Saturday May 19 with a traditional 3pm kick off, and Hearts will go into the game as firm favourites having not lost to their city rivals for over three years.

Both sets of supporters now face a scramble for tickets. In 2006, the clubs met at the semi-final stage and the Hibs board badly misjudged the allocation process, allowing season ticket holders only one ticket each which prevented friends and families sitting together and resulted in several thousand left unsold. Supporters are anxiously waiting to hear how the tickets will be distributed this time, and calls are already taking place to host the game at Murrayfield which holds 67,000 rather than Hampden Park which can only accommodate 50,000.

The SFA however are unlikely to allow their showpiece fixture to take place at the home of rugby, and both clubs should receive just over 20,000 tickets for the game, with the remainder going to corporate hospitality.

Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has dismissed the Murrayfield notion however and said: “Hampden is the home of Scottish football and that is the right place for the game.

“It’s a fantastic occasion to look forward to. It’ll be a great occasion for everyone, the city and both clubs.

“There is going to be so much hype around this game and it is important we concentrate on our job in the SPL.

“But, yes, an Edinburgh Cup Final is going to capture everyone’s imagination. We are talking about two big clubs and we’ve heard enough about Hibs’ recent history in the Scottish Cup, so it’ll be some occasion for us.

“The Hibs fans would take the prospect of beating anyone in a Final. But to have it against Hearts, it’d make it more special.”

“If Celtic won, we’d have been in Europe and that would have been great. On the other hand, we wanted the occasion of playing Hearts. So we still have the chance to get into Europe under our own steam.”

Saturday’s victory over Aberdeen has justified the Proclaimers’ decision to turn down lucrative concerts in America on cup final weekend, and the die-hard fans will be hoping to see the supporters sing their anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ as the team finally parade the cup for the first time in 110 years.

As Fenlon plays up the occasion, Hearts boss Paulo Sergio is determined to do the opposite. The Portuguese boss said:  “For me to play Hibs in the final will just be the same as playing any other team.

“It’s just another game against an opponent who we respect and, when the time comes, we will be ready for it. Celtic were the favourites today but in a final between Hearts and Hibs I don’t think there will be a favourite.

“But until then, everybody at Hearts have to keep their feet on the ground because we have important things to do just now. Our next target is to make sure we finish in fifth position in the league so we have important games to play before the final comes.

“Around me the players have to be focused on the next game. If I feel that they are not focused then they are not going to play and maybe they will lose their place in the team for the final. My players know the way I am and the way I want to work. They are used to that.

“They have every right to celebrate tonight but tomorrow we start thinking about the next game against Rangers. I will celebrate too but in the same way as I always do. I will go out, have a good dinner, drink a glass of wine and then go home.

“I’m not too emotional. I’m very happy of course, it’s contagious. I’m very happy and proud of the players because it’s a great moment for us. We didn’t beat a poor team; we beat Celtic, the champions of Scotland, who have a great squad, a great technical staff and a great manager, so we should be proud of that”.

First Minister Alex Salmond who supports the Gorgie men offered his congratulations to both teams and said: “Congratulations to Hearts and Hibs on their Scottish Cup semi-final victories over this weekend. We now have the exciting prospect of an all-Edinburgh cup final – the first since 1896, and I look forward to it.

“Despite some of the stories that have hit the headlines off the pitch, this has actually turned into a very exciting season on the pitch. Celtic were the outstanding team in the SPL and the deserved champions, Kilmarnock won the Communities League Cup, Ross County have won promotion to the SPL, and we now have an all-Edinburgh cup final to look forward to.

“In addition, although it’s early days, we have seen a significant improvement in fan behaviour. All in all a much better prospect for Scottish football.”

The only previous Scottish Cup Final between the city rivals was played at Logie Green in 1896, where Hearts lifted the trophy after a 3-1 victory.

Murray would endure the pain of relegation for cup win

It’s the question that has been asked and answered a thousand times in the pubs around Easter Road since Hibs eased past Ayr United to secure a semi-final place against Aberdeen at Hampden. Would you accept relegation, if it guaranteed a win in the Scottish Cup final?

Opinions are divided with some adamant that SPL survival must be the club’s number one priority, whilst the more romantic of the faithful argue that a season in division one would be a small price to pay to get the 110 year albatross off their necks.

The directors who worry about the financial implications are amongst the former, but one player is in the other camp. Club captain Ian Murray has no doubts and would happily swap relegation for cup glory on May 19, to erase the pain of their century old hoodoo. The midfielder whose season has been blighted by injury is desperate to see his beloved Hibs reach their first final since 2001 when a Henrik Larsson inspired Celtic led by Martin O’Neill beat Alex McLeish’s Hibs side 3-0. Murray played in that game as a teenager and should he feature in this year’s final, he will emulate the feat of legendary winger Arthur Duncan who played in two finals in the seventies.

The former Rangers and Norwich player said: “Our SPL form is poor but I’d say every fan and most of the players would take relegation if it meant we would win the Scottish Cup. “From a financial point of view for the club, the directors would pull their hair out if that happened, but as a romantic thing for the fans, they would take the Cup. If we could get both it would be fantastic”

“Second bottom of the SPL is not great at all but we’d all take that with a Cup Final appearance. “It has been that long and there have been so many great Hibs teams which haven’t won it and to get to a semi or final is a special achievement. The fans talk about it more than players but I don’t buy into hoodoos.”

Murray was just a teenager when he received the shock nod from gaffer Alex McLeish for the big day. “I don’t remember much talk about the hoodoo going into the 2001 final because we had such a good team. We were just unfortunate to come up against an exceptional Celtic side. I firmly believe had we kept that team in place, we could have had a chance of winning the title. But in the final Russell Latapy had his problems beforehand and didn’t play, while Franck Sauzee did play but wasn’t fully fit. We did really well for the first 30 minutes and Marc Libra had a chance in an even start. But things worked against us, such as Lubo Moravcik going off injured and Jackie McNamara coming on to score.”

“Celtic won well in the end but I feel that if we had faced anyone else that season, we would have won it. The hype around the game was fantastic, though, and it was great to be there.

“It was my first taste of a cup final at Hampden and it was so special for me, so to get back there would be fantastic. Stuart Lovell had missed eight games and I had been playing instead of him.

“It was the Wednesday beforehand and the gaffer pulled me in. I thought it was for the inevitable, ‘We’re going with experience line.’ I was expecting the bombshell and was ready to take it on the chin and be happy at just being around the squad.

“But then he said he’d play me wide right and Stuart was the one who was unhappy with the manager. It was a huge occasion, especially as I didn’t expect to play. I didn’t even tell my mum and dad I was playing as news might have got out. It was a great occasion and although we lost, it is a great memory.

“You hear people talking about losing these games and throwing away their medals but I don’t buy into that. Getting all the way to a final is a great achievement and something you should savour. Let’s face it, if I get back this season it’ll be my first since 2001 so they don’t come around too often.”

The versatile midfielder, who is in his testimonial year at Easter Road, is not underestimating the task of beating Craig Brown’s Aberdeen, and he is desperate to be in the squad after recovering from a long term groin injury. Last week, he came through sixty minutes in a bounce game against St Mirren at the East Mains training centre.

“I’ve not played in many semi-finals in the Scottish Cup. In 2000 I was on the bench when Aberdeen beat us 2-1. I played against Livingston when we reached the final in 2001 but I was suspended when Dundee United beat us 2-1 in 2005”.

“I know the feeling of being left out but if I am lucky I’ll get on the bench and at least have a wee chance of playing.

“I imagine I’ll be part of the squad. Perhaps the fact I can play a few positions might work in my favour but it’ll depend on how I train. If that goes well, you never know.”

Murray also knows that victory could set up an all-Edinburgh final if Hearts can beat champions Celtic on Sunday, and despite the dreadful record in recent derbies, he believes that winning the cup against Hearts would be the ultimate dream for him and the long suffering fans.

Murray said: “I expect Celtic to win the other semi but we would rather play Hearts as they are sixth in the table. Hearts have had the upper hand against us recently and we know that losing to our main rivals would be heart-breaking.”

“But beating them would make it extra special; you could lose the next 20 derbies and it would still be brilliant!”

If Murray does become only the second Hibs player to feature in two cup finals, he will no doubt hope for a different ending. The luckless Duncan scored the winning goal in the 1979 final, but unfortunately it was at the wrong end, and his diving header gave Rangers an undeserved 3-2 victory in the second replay at Hampden.

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

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.

A Trip Back In Time

I’ve been to a lot of grounds in Scotland but Saturday was my first trip to the proverbial “One horse town” known as Cowdenbeath. Hibs had drawn the ‘Blue Brazil’ in the Scottish Cup.I had managed to wangle a free ticket from a fellow kind Hibee from the excellent website ‘Hibees Bounce’. Nice one.

The ground itself is an eye opener to say the least. 2 ramshackle stands, terracing that belongs in the past, a (what looked like) pigeon hut in one corner, and a ( I kid you not) a stock car racing track surrounding a tattie field of a pitch. One look at the place and I thought “the Hibs players are in for a shock when they take to the park.”With an Arctic blast blowing all afternoon there was no shelter on the terracing from it’s icy grip. It must have been terrible for both teams to play in. However they managed to provide the 2600 odd crowd with a Cup cracker.

Hibs went one down within 16 seconds. The 2000 Hibees groaned collectively. “Here we go again” we’re all thinking. Hibs didn’t let the goal get to them though. Slowly they got into their stride and started to dominate. 3 cracking goals from Griffiths, new boy Doyle (I like the look of this lad) and Spoony had us on easy street. But this is Hibs, we do things the hard way, and with 20 minutes to go Beath scored again (a sublime goal) to set up a nervy ending to the match.

3-2 Final Score, and the main thing is the ‘Cabbage’ are through to the next round.I wonder who we will get when the draw is made on Monday? Fingers crossed for a home tie against lower league opposition, though to be fair, these clubs will probably want Hibs as we are an easy touch at the moment. But at least we are there and I have faith in Nutsy in turning us around.