Memories of recent trips to Dumfries have been somewhat bitter-sweet. Queens is always a fixture where you don’t feel ripped off by the prices and there’s a decent welcome waiting for us whenever we go there. Some of the games have been a joy – no more so than the reciprocal fixture this time last season, where Hibs ran out comfortable and rightful winners on a sunny Saturday afternoon. However, the memories of midweek disappointments such as a league cup exit at Palmerston under Pat Fenlon, where the likes of O’Hanlon, Pa Kujabi and Stephens extracted the proverbial urine out of the Hibs fans who had travelled…or the ball-less Baltic Belly Up, earlier in 2016 (that all but ended any hopes of automatic promotion) are still prominent war wounds for those who witnessed either (or both).
So it was against this schizophrenic backdrop we made the trip down the winding roads of the Borders into D&G…which sounds like the footballing equivalent of a dawdle from the local book shop to a designer outlet. And we were all hoping Hibs would be a high end product this afternoon, not the bargain book bucket kind. Unfortunately, a combination of weather, playing surface and certain players decided we were going to be treated to the footballing equivalent of a trolley dash round Aldi.
Hibs lined up along familiar lines. With Marvin Bartley’s red card being rescinded midweek, he was available for selection and Neil Lennon kept his enforcer in the middle of the park. However, there were changes to the line up that started against Ayr last weekend, with Brian Graham coming in for Holt, Squirrel replacing Shinniesta and Dylan coming in for Fyvie – the latter could consider himself unlucky to be jettisoned from the side both before, during and after today’s game. The changes were not for the better…be careful what you wish for.
Hibs started at a rate of knots, playing into the wind that was wheeching across the length of the park from the away end to the clock end. The pace and desire to get the ball forward quickly was much improved from last week but, sadly, the passing was poorer than of late…with the weather, the surface and some players making it uneasy on the eye. The best chance, and arguably the easiest one, fell to Jason in the opening exchanges. He rose to meet a free header but contrived to direct it to the one place that wasn’t going to result in a goal – straight at the keeper. John McGinn was clearly in the mood to take the fight and the football to the home side. He took on helluva battering from Marc Millar, the Queens No8, who was rightly booked for a wreckless challenge in the first half but who got away with challenging Super in a number of unorthodox ways. Head high being one of them. The more the former Bairn brought Dumfries Taekwondo to Super, the more he showed his class. Riding challenges, dropping the shoulder and away. Finding the passes, taking on shots. He was a beacon of brightness in the gloom.
Sadly, for the Hibs fans, the players who had been brought in to freshen things up this afternoon failed to do anything that would make a case for their further inclusion in a starting line up next week. Squirrel was lively enough. He squirreled about. But the lack of end product was driving me nuts. Dylan’s pedigree and worth is not in question but he didn’t have a great outing today. His passing was completely out of sorts. And Brian Graham’s lack of technique was horribly exposed on a surface that is not forgiving if you cannot do the simple things well. It was like watching an off-form Peter Crouch on skates. With every tortuous break down of play there was direct but inverse correlation with the number of ironic comments from Hibees saying they were actually missing Holt.
If Hibs’ record at Palmerston is variable, so was the respective performances of the players. Throughout the game the back division coped well with what came their way. Hanlon was majestic, McGregor combative, the full backs solid. All fear of being put to the Dobbie sword was misplaced. Time and again, our defensive players (including Marvin) dealt with him by simply standing him up and preventing him getting any clear sight of goal. The problems in the team were all in front – or to the side – of John McGinn. For Queens, the other performance of note belonged to today’s pantomime baddie. Not just looking as chunky as Grant Holt but rather looking like he ATE Grant Holt, Jamie Hammill provided us with the alternative entertainment to the football. He was involved in Lewis picking up his first caution when he was challenged rashly by our man on the touchline…but definitely made the most of it. I’m not contesting the yellow card here. We’d have wanted it delivered if it were the other way round. However, The Gunt knew what he was doing too.
Just as the first half had opened with JC missing a sitter, so the second half ensued in Groundhog fashion. Another JC sitter and another Lewis caution. Dale Hilson and Stevenson were both chasing the ball in front of the dug outs, towards the Hibs goal. The Queens player cut across the path of Lewis and then put on the anchors enough to encourage a challenge. Unfortunately, the school boy error from our man was him having his hands raised as he went into the back of Hilson. The linesman decided it was a blatant push and the end result was us going down to ten men for nearly half the game. After last week there was a horrible sense that this might unravel again. As a consequence of the sending off, Hibs had to reshuffle. Fozzie came on for Jason and, as he left the field of play, he took out his frustration on the referee and got a caution for his troubles. Unlike last week, however, the sending off galvanised the Hibees. Super went into overdrive, and shortly after the sending off made Robinson make a spectacular save with a swerving shot from 30 yards. Hibs battled away for the remainder of the game. Warriors such as Hanlon, McGregor, Bartley and McGinn were stoic and strong. Fyvie came on for Dylan and made a positive impact too. Those 5 players drove us on to the end and we could well have ended up winning it. A number of corners caused consternation for the home side but none could be forced home.
There were a couple of penalty shouts in both halves. One a handball that we all shouted for first half when Hammill was on the deck and he definitely made contact with the ball with his arm. Hand to ball or ball to hand? Maybe the HibsTV tellybox will telly us which. The one in the second half looked stone wall. A shocking challenge in the Queens area that was waved away. I really want to see that again.
It ended 0-0, we ended up soaked and cold. We learned a wee bit more about some of our players. We always knew who the warriors were though…
Marciano – not an awful lot to be done, all said and done. However, he made a crucial save to keep the game level with only minutes to go.
Stevenson – in some ways as schizophrenic as Hibs history at Palmerston. I thought he was actually doing fine and dandy first half. Took a caution for a challenge on The Gunt that was predictable…but was suckered for the second yellow that saw him walk.
Gray – solid outing in tricky conditions
Hanlon – two players showed that, even in horrendous condition, strong, technically good players can still perform. Paul was one of them. Bossed the game at CH, maintained that at LB
McGregor – it was a game for warriors. He rose to that challenge
Bartley – he had his critics on here and elsewhere last week. I, for one, was glad he played today. He was The Enforcer.
McGinn – he’s Neil Lennon’s man. Today he merited the unlikely comparison with Zidane. He took hellish conditions, a crappy pitch, an in-his-face Millar…chewed them up and spat them out. Truly good players can play in any conditions. He was worth the entry money alone.
McGeouch – oooyah boy. I love Dylan. I love his football. I love his swagger. I love his heart and commitment. I have to say today that he was not himself. His passing was woeful, especially first half. He never hides though. He will have many better days. Fyvie would have been a better pick but hindsight is magnificent, isn’t it?
Boyle – energetic but really, really needs to learn to give big huddy defenders more problems than he did. Too easily brushed off the ball.
Cummings – a freakin’ enigma. He is in danger of having me feel schizophrenic about him. Two gilt edged chances at the start of both halves. He really should have scored both. Like Squirrel, he was too easy for the Huddies to brush off the ball. He wasn’t great today but our best chances still fell to him. The Balgreen Balotelli impersonation on being subbed was not helpful. I would have hooked you before the sending off Jase. Sometimes, the needs of the team really do come first.
Graham – Those who wanted Holt out were given this present. Can I ask that we have Keats (or even Holt) back for Dundee United? Please.
Forster – came on to play centre half when Lewis was sent off. Had a solid outing, slotted in just fine
Fyvie – immediate impact. I am still disappointed last week’s MotM didn’t start play today.
Holt – probably not played because of the surface as much as anything…not used
Keatings – what is going on here? Didn’t get enough time again. Even an off-day Keats would have been better than the front pairing today
Laidlaw not used
Harris not used
Shinniesta – not used
Referee – he could have sent off Millar and probably should have. He was criticised in some quarters but I’ll wait to see the replays to see whether the Man in the Middle from 21st May got key things wrong. Lewis will doubtless reflect he could have avoided his dismissal.
Crowd – A crowd that looked just shy of 4000 people had a 60:40 split in favour of the home side. It was an excellent turnout from the Hibs fans, some who were making their first ever visit back in time to Palmerston. They played their part in urging the team over the line once we were down to ten men. They were cold, wet and under heavy fire. Credit to every one who made the TARDIS journey.
Man of the Match – 2 way fight between the two players who showed that , if you are strong, technically good and have a brain, it doesn’t matter how keech the weather or the pitch is. I oscillated between Hanlon and McGinn all game. However, the latter was the reason there was any semblance of entertainment today. Super was, indeed, Super. (He also gave a wee laddie, who was skelped in the face by a Squirrel shot in the warm up, his tracksuit top. Well played John)
Next up – another important game. We say it every week – your club needs you. If you can get along to ER next weekend then please do so. I really don’t want to be visiting Dumfries again next season. And neither do you.