Published: 29th October 2014

United and Hibs went the distance in a pulsating six goal encounter which eventually saw the Tangerines win through 7-6 on penalties. By Justin Hayes The large travelling United support arrived digesting the news that manager Jackie McNamara had rung the changes in formation and personnel following Saturday’s disappointing one-nil defeat to Inverness. Out went Dillon, Ciftci, Armstrong and Watson. Souttar returned for a first start of the season to sweep behind Fojut and Townsend. Paton returned to partner Rankin, in a midfield alongside Spittal, Erskine, Mackay-Steven; Erskine supporting Dow and Connolly up top in an interchangeable system. Hibs showed one change from the side which fought out a draw with city rivals Hearts at the weekend, the experience Liam Craig returning in place of the suspended Dylan McGeouch. In a fairly open first opening ten minutes, with both sides intent on attacking and keeping the ball on the ground, Hibs were first to threaten when Cumming’s cross found former United man Robertson who couldn’t keep his shot down from inside the box. United however opened the scoring in eleven minutes when, out of the blue, a deft touch from Connelly allowed Erskine a sight of goal, and the midfielder composed himself to side-foot past Oxley, in a finish spookily similar to the goal he scored in the pre-season encounter between the sides earlier this season. The lead was short lived, when with Mackay-Steven off the pitch, the prominent Scott Allan slipped the ball through for Malonga to drive home from the angle of the box. With the game now if possible even more open, a superb passage of play involving Dow and Connolly saw the ball tantalisingly fall behind Erskine with the goal gaping. A minute later Rankin’s superb through ball released Dow, who in the act of rounding Oxley, was caught, but amidst claims for a penalty, regained his feet to square for Connolly to scramble home. The goal allowed the injured Mackay-Steven, still off the pitch, to be replaced by Ciftci. United’s short passing game was posing Hibs difficulties, but the home side served notice of their threat when Malonga, from a suspiciously looking offside position, set up Cummings who, stretching, flashed his effort over the bar. This gave Hibs a boost, and Allan was next to have a go, his shot from the edge of the box well held by Cierzniak, with thirty-three minutes gone. A frantic opening period, got even better, in a scintillating few minutes leading up to the break. Firstly Hibs were awarded a free-kick to the consternation of the United players and support behind the goal, from which Liam Craig’s free-kick was brilliantly tipped round the post. From the resulting corner, United broke at pace, but were again left frustrated by the official who ruled that Dow had been fairly shoulder charged off the ball by Gray. Hibs then saw Cummings flash a drive wide, before good play from Erskine ended with him having a shot diverted wide off Fontaine from close range with the Hibs number one wrong-footed, drawing to a close a breath-taking forty-five. In a very open first half, United’s movement and passing in the final third on the break caused the home side all sorts of problems, while Hibs likewise were breaking purposefully, and in particular targeting the space in behind the flanks. Hibs opened the second half brightly, with Malonga setting up Craig who scooped his effort harmlessly over the bar within thirty seconds of the restart. Having somehow survived pin ball inside the box, Souttar hacking the ball clear, United were pegged back a minute later in fifty-seven, when Hibs deservedly levelled. Stevenson’s pinpoint cross from the left was perfect for Cummings to head home from close range. With Hibs on the ascendancy Craig fired several yards wide. The goal however seemed to spark United into life, and they responded on the hour mark. Firstly Dow was onto a long ball, but his header was cleared by the onrushing Oxley as far as Ciftci, whose effort was also blocked, before Erskine took his time to place a shot which was cleared off the line by Hanlon for a corner. The relief was only temporary for the home side, as from Spittal’s corner Dow flashed home a header to put United back in the lead for a third time. Boosted by this, United went in search of a fourth goal which would surely put the game beyond the reach of Hibs, but such was the end to end nature of the match, that Hibs Cummings then went close with an effort that just dipped the wrong side of the bar. A double change by United in sixty-seven minutes saw Paton and Connolly replaced by Armstrong and Smith. Ciftci was next to go close riding the challenge of Craig before firing wide, before Fontaine flashed a header just wide for the hosts with twenty minutes to go, in what had become a classic cup tie. Ciftci then tested Oxley low to his left hand side, as United continued to threaten on the break. A minute, later substitute Kennedy, who had been getting plenty of ball down the left for the home team in the short time he had been on, cut inside, and his deflected drive dipped inside Cierzniak’s left hand post, with twelve minutes remaining to make the game all-square. Almost immediately, Cummings then had an effort inside the box which Rado gladly held at the second attempt, as the action showed no signs of relenting. With four minutes to go, Spittal was fouled at the corner flag, and the resulting free-kick broke to Armstrong whose low volley from distance fell nicely for the Hibs keeper to smother. Craig then drilled an effort wide from a short free-kick, as the game entered a nervy last few moments. Despite several near misses at both ends, normal time could not separate the sides at ninety minutes. Extra-time begun in similar fashion to the ninety minutes, with both sides intent on winning the match, but with fewer clear cut chances, as both sides tired. Craig tested Cierzniak early in the second period, and with seven minutes remaining, Dow flashed a shot wide. With perhaps Hibs exertions from the Sunday derby beginning to tell, United finished the stronger, nonetheless Cierzniak again had to be lively to push out Kennedy’s curling effort. With seconds to go, Ciftci flicked a Dow cross just wide, in what represented the game’s last chance, as penalty kicks loomed. Shooting first, into the Hibs, Erskine set the ball rolling with a calmly side footed effort, and it set the tone, with an excellent standard of penalties from both sides, although Armstrong’s effort which went in via the bar was a bit too close for comfort. After twelve successful penalties, Rankin fired wildly over, handing Hibs the initiative. Staring defeat in the face, United’s number one held his nerve to first block Kennedy’s penalty, allowing Townsend to put United back in front, and then the keeper brilliantly saved Gray’s effort high to his right to complete a dramatic night. Verdict: A totally captivating encounter from start to finish, with little to choose between the two, and one in which both sides deserve tremendous credit for attacking relentlessly. The penalty kicks in many ways summed up what was classic see-saw Quarter Final tie. It was a match with heroes all over the pitch on both sides, and it is perhaps unfair to pick out one player, but as in the last round, when it mattered most, Radoslaw Cierzniak stood up to be counted. Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Robertson (Stanton 119), Craig, Stevenson, Handling (Kennedy 68), Allan, Malonga, Cummings (Harris 84). Subs not used: Perntreou, Heffernan, Sinclair, Booth. United: Czerniak, Souttar, Townsend, Fojut, Spittal, Paton (Armstrong 67), Rankin, Mackay-Steven (Ciftci 20), Dow, Connolly (Smith 67), Erskine. Subs: Szromnik, Bilate, Dillon, Telfer. Referee: John Beaton, Asst refs: Stephen Mitchell & Stuart Macmillan, Fourth official: Greg Aitken Attendance: 8689