Referee 2-1 Performance
2nd December 2006 (3pm kickoff)
'Quality of football played doesn`t always guarantee a positive result and a bit of luck can often prove decisive' - those were the words of Craig Levein earlier this week and he was proven right at Easter Road this afternoon as Hibernian got lucky against Dundee United.
Granted, Dundee United didn't actually score themselves, because it was a 24th minute own-goal from Shelton Martis that put them into the lead, but their performance deserved much more from the match.
Craig Levein had to do without Garry Kenneth & Noel Hunt from his starting line-up, with Garry Kenneth not fully recovered from an ankle knock sustained during last weekends match against Saint Mirren and Noel Hunt missed out with a leg knock.
Alan Archibald and David Goodwillie took their places in the side, with Greg Cameron sitting out to give Colin Samuel his starting place in the 4-5-1 formation that won out against Saints at Tannadice.
Dundee United were the more inspired of the two sides and took the lead in the 24th minute, when Craig Conway`s cross was met by the head of Hibernian`s Shelton Martis, who headed the ball over his own keeper.
After going infront, United piled on the pressure and could have gone 2-0 ahead just moment later, but Ziggy Malkowski saved David Goodwillies powerful shot, after Colin Samuel had played him in.
Robert Jones had to throw himself at Craig Conway right-footed shot and David Goodwillie had a chance from 12 yards, but put it over the bar.
Meanwhile, Ivan Sproule was having a miserable afternoon and fell foul of the offside flag on many occasions, as the Dundee United defence were for once in sync and played the offside trap brilliantly.
Hibernian equalised against the run of play with just moments left before halftime, when the referee stepped in to order a re-taken freekick after Hibs tried to take the 1st too quickly and blasted it against the retreating Mark Kerr.
Then, when the freekick was re-taken, Chris Killen`s sneaky shove on Lee Mair gave him an extra yard of space to head the ball back across goal and Rob Jones was on-hand to send the ball into the back of Derek Stillie`s goal.
Although, Dundee United weren`t too disheartened by losing the late goal, and in the 2nd half they continued to pressurise Hibs, closing them down and creating some decent chances.
Mark Kerr had a 20yard effort that went just wide, then Zbigniew Malkowski had to punch a Craig Conway corner.
However, Hibernian capitalised on United`s inability to score and in the 73rd minute when Steven Fletcher got onto a pass from substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun to steal all 3 points for the Edinburgh side.
After going 2-1 infront, Hibs relaxed a little and started playing some better football, but Dundee United were still in the match and pushed forward insearch of the equaliser they deserved.
David Goodwillie had a 12yard shot, which was saved by Zbigniew Malkowski and then came the penalty claim when Craig Conway was bundled over in the Hibs penalty area.
David Goodwillie & Craig Conway`s pace cause the Hibs defence problems all afternoon, but it was the same problem for Dundee United that`s been haunting them for most of the year - nobody to put the ball in the back of the net.
Barry Robson & Craig Conway are getting some excellent balls into the box, but Dundee United just don`t seem to have anyone to get onto the end of them.
Dundee United need a forward with an aerial presence, a powerful player who can get onto the end of these crosses - a Jim Hamilton or Jim McIntyre player, or maybe even a Kenny Deuchar sort of player????
Speaking after the game, Levein said he was happy with the performance and even thought United had caused Hibs more problems than the league leaders had the previous weekend.
'For the team that play the best football in the SPL, I didn't think we were ever under constant pressure and we stopped them playing and we tried to play,' said Levein
The result means Dundee United have lost their last 6 consecutive away matches, including Saint Johnstone in the League Cup 3-0, Hearts 4-0, Aberdeen 3-1, Falkirk 5-1, Dunfermline 2-1 and now Hibernian 2-1....so Levein has a lot of work to do on his sides away form, but before that the next challenge is to maintain their run of home matches against Inverness Caley Thistle at Tannadice next weekend.
Hibernian 2-1 Dundee United
'Craig Conway has improved no end and while there is all the talk about Thomson, Brown and Beuzelin - for me the best midfielder on show was Barry Robson, and he is not even a central midfield player. We bossed the midfield,' said Levein.