Published: 23rd September 2021
It was two games in five days for Tam Courts’s squad as the green half of Edinburgh travelled north to battle it out with United for a place at Hampden for the Premier Sports Cup Semi Finals.
The last time the sides met was coincidentally at Hampden in April this year, Hibernian running out eventual 2-0 winners in a closely contested Scottish Cup Semi Final, Christian Doidge and Kevin Nisbet on target for tonight’s opponents. United’s last venture to this stage of the League Cup was in 2016, when Ray McKinnon’s side narrowly lost out to Greenock Morton 2-1 on a wet Tuesday night at Cappielow, Nick van der Velden’s 55th minute strike not enough to send us into the last four.
Tam Courts made four changes to the side that were victorious in Sunday’s Dundee derby, Benji Siegrist, Kerr Smith, Calum Butcher and Ilmari Niskanen all replaced by Trevor Carson, Kieran Freeman, Dylan Levitt and Nicky Clark respectively as United reverted to the tried and tested 4-3-3.
Unfortunately, it was the visitors who came out of the traps flying and opened the scoring after just three minutes, former United man Scott Allan instrumental in the build-up. Martin Boyle cut in off the left, darting away from Scott McMann before finding Allan wide on the left. The midfielder drove towards the United defence and threaded a perfectly weighted through-ball into the path of Joe Newell who dispatched into the near post with power to give Hibs the perfect start to the Quarter-Final.
Calls for a penalty from the stands were waived away by referee Willie Collum as Freeman hit the deck under the challenge of Allan at the corner of the area, the shouts perhaps in hope rather than expectation.
United were forced into a change before the 20th minute, Charlie Mulgrew reporting a slight muscle injury to the medical staff which resulted in his withdrawal for Mark Reynolds.
The home side began to get a foothold in the match around the midway point of the first half, Hibs allowing us time and space to make progressive passes into the final third. Eventually, United carved out a clear-cut opportunity through this sustained pressure. Freeman pickpocketed Hanlon and the loose ball dropped to Clark on the edge of the box. Clark rolled the ball right to the onrushing Pawlett who showed composure to jink inside Porteous in a tight area, but blasted his close-range effort over Matt Macey’s crossbar. Ryan Edwards was picked out by McMann’s brilliant left-footed delivery soon after, the defender beating Hanlon to the cross and diverting a bullet header narrowly wide.
Against the run of play, the Hibees doubled their advantage. Boyle prodded the ball into Nisbet who was advancing beyond the United rear-guard. Fuchs made an incredible recovery run to disposses the striker, however, the loose ball rolled into the path of Allan and, at the second bite of the cherry after a penalty box stramash, he smashed low into the corner on the volley leaving Carson with no chance.
The final nail in United’s coffin was delivered on the stroke of half-time under dubious circumstances, Collum pointing to the spot after a tangle between Reynolds and Paul McGinn. Boyle shouldered the responsibility of the spot kick and converted with confidence, whipping the ball low to Carson’s right to give United a momentous mountain to climb.
United began the second period in encouraging fashion, enjoying the lion’s share of possession just outside the Hibs box. McNulty tried his luck on the angle, Hanlon blocking his former colleague’s effort, then Pawlett and McMann combined effectively to force their way into the box, the final ball just lacking for United. The pressure continued as Levitt sent a pinpoint, lofted pass in behind Porteous for the advancing McNulty but he couldn’t control the high ball under pressure from Macey.
The hosts finally got their deserved goal just before the hour mark, Pawlett notching his fifth goal of the season by finishing off a fine team move. Clark drilled into the feet of Pawlett from deep who laid off to Harkes. The American slid the ball into the channel for Freeman and he picked out Pawlett who’d continued his run. The 30-year-old took a touch to steady himself before lashing the ball past Macey on the half-volley to give United a lifeline.
United looked to build on this as the crowd began to believe the comeback was on and could have pulled a second goal back in quick succession. Levitt’s teasing delivery drifted past the green shirts at the back to Clark who applied a deft touch at the front post to force Macey into action.
The final opportunities fell the way of Hibs as the 180 minutes of football in just five days began to take its toll on United. First, Newell robbed Fuchs and moved the ball forward to Magennis. He rather wastefully decided to shoot rather than capitalise on the numerical advantage and thundered the ball wide of Carson’s post from distance. Newell was again involved as he picked up the pieces of a corner, burst past Reynolds and rolled across the six-yard box for Nisbet who somehow failed to make contact with the ball from point-blank range.
This proved to be the last action of note as our Premier Sports Cup run reached its conclusion, the score-line a fairly harsh representation of how the 90 minutes unfolded in reality.