The last 9 days have been something of a circus. There has been no getting away from the one topic that our “neutral media” have chosen to pursue at a time they really ought to have been concentrating on the fortunes of our clubs in Europe, the World Cup draw and the opening tranche of Premiership fixtures. Last week we saw various parties appropriately cast as clowns, lion tamers and Dumbos. The ring master was not afforded the centre spotlight until the second half – and this was to be the case again today. Not making the starting line up, he became the side show…for the first hour anyway. By the end of the match, he was to be back at the top of the bill…even if that process was something of an awkward piece of tight rope walking for all concerned.
Marvin Bartley made his first appearance in a Hibs strip and he slotted into the centre of midfield alongside Fraser Fyvie as if he’s always been here. A positive, robust and influential debut saw him win a deserved Man of the Match. It was probably just as well we had this very obvious positive to hold on to as the first half was not one many people will remember in years to come. Like the dodgy Fringe Act you might have gone along to because “you never know, it might be good” the first half left us feeling that we might have used the £15 more wisely and gone to see a free street performance instead.
Hibs lined up along similar lines to last weekend with the anticipated back four being pretty much the only real option available to Stubbs at the moment. In the middle of the park Bartley and Fyvie linked up with Scott Martin and Stanton and Harris took up wide roles. Jason Cummings, the only recognised first team striker currently fit, led a lonely line up front on his own. The first half was to be one that felt more like a pre-season friendly than the outings to Berwick, Dunfermline and Ayr combined. The crowd skimmed 6000 – five thousand nine hundred and thirty three – 133 of them Montrose fans according to the announcer towards the end of the game. The gulls annoyingly outnumbered the bodies in the away end. The atmosphere was subdued. Little wonder given last week’s performance. Little wonder given the lack of penetrative play this afternoon. The side show was in danger of becoming the main attraction before he even stepped on the field of play.
The topic of discussion before the game was how the Hibs fans would react to Scott Allan in the light of his transfer request this week. There was much debate about how people should or might react to the player given his apparent desire to move along the M8 to the tribute act. Inside the ground the vast majority of supporters chose not to give the Glasgow media their headline of choice for tomorrow morning and applauded the player when warming up and resisted the temptation to make more instinctive feelings known. There can be no accusations in the media. Nobody connected to the player can use it to further the attempts to move our player to Billy’s Not So Smart Circus.
However, the solitary boo he was to get from the West Stand during the first half was to prove pivotal in a number of supporters missing seeing a first ever first team goal from the player taking Allan’s place – his namesake, Martin. Me in-feckin-cluded. Allan was making his way back to the dug out after a short stint warming up and this isolated boo came from the West. Many in the vicinity looked first at the person providing the Waldorf and Stadtler routine, then immediately to ascertain the player’s reaction. At this point, Scott Martin was putting the ball in the back of the net. Just as well that this is my last “Just Back” as I would have been getting my jotters anyway, after that. Unfortunately, nobody around me saw the goal either. Can’t even give a second hand eye witness account. The laddie enjoyed his celebration though.
Other moments of note in the first half came courtesy of Bartley’s hassling, tackling and bossing of the middle of the park. There was the ubiquitous Fontaine header over the bar, the unfortunate misplaced pass (or four) from such as Stanton, Hanlon and others as we tried to settle in the opening passages of play. There was an appeal for a penalty by Montrose when their forward got into a bit of a slapstick sketch with Mark Oxley but thankfully any pleas for a spot kick fell on deaf ears. The other player who deserves a mention for their first half performance (for the right reasons) was Jason Cummings. He was asked to undertake a thankless task as our lone striker but he worked his backside off, showed some nice touches of skill and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet. Montrose had clearly come to try and frustrate us and hope to scavenge something on the break against the run of play and it took us a fair while to finally start playing a bit. It pretty much took us until the side show was about to take centre stage…
Fontaine had another skied effort just after the break whilst Cummings continued to try a forge an opening. Stanton had been given good chances to increase our lead but nobody managed to oblige. Just after the hour mark, Bartley was to take his bow and be replaced by Allan. It was the other moment in proceedings where Eastenders would have obliged with cliff hanging “duff duffs” but it was to pass without much incident as the Hibs No10 joined the show. His entrance was to turn a fairly mundane showing into one with a proper finale. His first intervention was to slide Stanton in on goal and Sammy was unlucky not to do better with his shot on goal. This was simply the warm up play for Allan’s next high impact solo performance. Picking up the ball in midfield, he dropped the shoulder, drove past the red jerseys in his way and buried a precision finish in the bottom corner of the net. There was relief all round the stadium…relief on so many levels. Allan was to continue to remind us why he has been top of the bill for the last year. Time and again he drove at the opposition, linking up with team mates or taking on shots himself. David Gray came close with an effort courtesy of another good crossed delivery from Allan but the Montrose keeper somehow kept the ball out of the net. The corner that resulted from this passage of play saw Fontaine assist Jason Cummings in getting a deserved goal. Happy birthday, Jason. Happy Hibees, everyone else.
Everyone was unsettled going into this game. It was not an easy performance to endure at times but by the time the curtain fell those who made the trip to Easter Road this afternoon probably left a little happier, a little less anxious. The result was satisfactory, the potential for more Weegie media reviews of the worst kind minimised. We’re probably all grateful however that this was a one night only show.
Oxley – got in a fankle at the penalty claim, had to come off his line to sweep up on occasion but in reality not tested again
Gray – I have to say I am a little concerned that he still looks off the pace
Hanlon – solid enough performance defensive wise, one horrible misplaced pass in the first half (but his wasn’t the worst)
Fontaine – for the number of headers he wins in the opposition box his return rate is not good. Set up JC for his goal, though
Bartley – he is going to be loved. Deserved MotM
Fyvie – another neat and immaculate outing, nothing flash but does as he is asked – must be a manager’s dream
Stanton – another Sammy performance of The good, the bad and the ugly
Stevenson – far more impact after Allan came on
Harris – the boy is struggling still and I can’t see what contribution he will make when we are back to full strength
Cummings – well done lad. A goal a game ratio intact. Happy birthday, dinnae be daft
Martin – he enjoyed his goal. I would have too if it had not been for the side show.
Allan – The 25 or so minutes he played were the most entertaining of the game. He negotiated it, we negotiated it. Phew. He is needed by us. We have to make this work.
Shaw – made his debut but the game passed him by
Sinclair – Sinky almost got in on the scoring act with a left foot attempt that was difficult to control, a decent 5 mins to be fair
Substitutes not used: Reguero, Dunsmore, Crane, L. Allan.
John McGinn – said at HT we’re going to win the league. I like his optimism
The Montrose LB – when well known West Stand Hibee Stu got the ball for him at a throw in he indulged the lad’s banter – nice touch
The Gulls – it’s like Cantona is back on the Bounce and they’re following his freakin trawler. Part time supporters that they are they pissed off with 20 mins to go
The Hibs support – take a bow all 5900 of you. Well, except maybe one. I’ll never get that goal back you know…
Next stop the Sons of the Rock and you can have 1875 back.
He got his ticket we are led to believe