- Thursday, 23 February 2012
- Written by Modou Lamin Beyai
Gambian defender Pa Saikou Kujabi and his Scottish side Hibernian endured a painful 4-3 defeat at Motherwell - even though the team in green led at half-time and performed well for long periods.
But a handful of lapses in concentration enabled third-placed Motherwell to emerge triumphant in a seven-goal thriller at Fir Park. Goals from Isaiah Osbourne, Matt Doherty and Ivan Sproule should have been enough to warrant something from the trip to Lanarkshire, but ultimately Hibs were left to rue what might have been.
Before kick-off, manager Pat Fenlon made three changes to the starting line-up with Garry O’Connor, Ivan Sproule and George Francomb given the nod and restored to the side. During a hugely entertaining opening 45 minutes, both teams created genuine chances in an open, attacking game and Lewis Stevenson came close to finishing off a thrilling move inside the opening 10 minutes.
After surviving a couple of scares at the back - with Motherwell’s rapid attacking armoury stretching the Hibs’ rearguard - Hibernian went ahead following enterprising work from Leigh Griffiths. The Scotland under-21 striker, who worked tirelessly throughout, took the ball past Motherwell keeper Darren Randolph and from the by-line selflessly cut the ball back for Isaiah Osbourne to open his goal account in green.
The Birmingham-born midfielder will scarcely have easier chances to convert in his career, but he immaculately side-footed the ball into the unguarded net. Cue euphoric scenes from the Hibs’ support (over 800 made the trip through). Keeping the ball sensibly while always looking purposeful in the final third, Hibernian deservedly took a one-goal advantage into the break - echoes of the previous meeting between the two teams back in November.
But this time around the show went on and it was Motherwell’s comeback rather than a faulty floodlight that caught alight. Almost immediately after the restart, Hibernian’s defence failed to deal with a fairly innocuous through ball that had been launched into the air and the indecision led to Motherwell’s equaliser.
Motherwell target man Michael Higdon watched as the ball bounced in between James McPake and Matt Doherty before nicking it away from Graham Stack and getting clipped inside the box in the process. All it needed was a sure touch under pressure or even an almighty clearance into Row Z of the Main Stand but suddenly the pendulum had swung viciously in favour of the home side and the 8,056 crowd burst into life after the penalty was awarded.
Showing a greater level of decisiveness than his opponents, Higdon smashed a right-footed penalty past Stack to restore parity but soon after Motherwell nudged themselves ahead when another moment of indecision at the back enabled winger Omar Daley to accelerate to the byline before cutting the ball back for Jamie Murphy to score from close range.
Suddenly Hibs were a goal behind, but rather than wither and die, it triggered off a spirited comeback and an equaliser duly followed when Matt Doherty rifled in a shot after Motherwell had struggled to clear a corner. Game on or so it seemed and it looked as if a stalemate could be on the cards but Motherwell cranked up the pressure and scored a blockbuster third goal.
The impressive Henrik Ojaama blasted a shot that Stack somehow managed to tip onto the crossbar, but Hibs could not clear the danger and Murphy hooked the ball back into the danger zone where Higdon finished with an acrobatic overhead kick. Higdon completed his hat-trick on 75 minutes when Hibs conceded another penalty - this time Doherty was judged by referee Steven MacLean to have fouled Ojaama inside the area. Pa Saikou was later introduced in the game nine minutes from time but it was little too late for his introduction.
Higdon’s penalty was an almost exact replica of his earlier spot kick - a low driven shot - and Motherwell had miraculously transformed their fortunes. Ivan Sproule bundled in a consolation effort with five minutes of the contest remaining, but even though Hibernian huffed and puffed they had unfortunately run out of steam. Plenty of food for thought for manager Pat Fenlon heading into Saturday’s trip to Kilmarnock.
In terms of positives, there were quite a few encouraging signs that emerged from the match, but similarly the calamitous errors at the back reared their head once again.