When I signed off after doing four “Just Backs” up to and including the Arbroath game, I anticipated my next outing on Just Back duty would be some time in September or October, when 1875 would be off to his second home in sunny Spain again. I didn’t anticipate it coming as soon as the first game of the SPL season but the auld yin is off to his wee brother’s 70th birthday tonight and was going to be toiling to put something together for around 24 hours…so here I go again for my fifth Just Back of the season, just 4 weeks early. His nibs will be back on duty on Tuesday night
Today was “Flag Day”. I couldn’t get the song by the Housemartins out ma heid ahead of kick off. It was almost as much of an ear worm as the McGinn song after the Tynecastle derby of 2016 but not quite…and it became a $#@!ised version in ma heid with every passing hour. Too much energy, adrenalin pumping and anticipation for today. Finally, Flag Day. I went for my usual early Saturday morning run to try and use up some of the energy pulsing through every blood vessel and oozing out every pore. I even ran up Calton Hill today, such was the extent of the booster rocket fuel racing through my arteries and veins. I felt like feckin’ Rocky on the top of the steps…and still no less excited. On the way I passed green and white jersey and green and white favour after favour…Hibs fans were everywhere and it was barely 9am. Colours loud and proud. Excited, chatting, smiling. The bleedin’ run really only had me feel even more energized and impatient.
It had been the weirdest of weeks. It started with much hilarity and positivity as Hibs won their League Cup section, undefeated and were rewarded with a reasonable last 16 tie. Across the city, they bombed out to three part time teams, sacked their comedy gold manager and then were forced to admit that the promised land of a shiny new stand was not happening when and where they said it would. And, even better still, the embarrassment that this was because they had not ordered seats. Or could not order seats. We know what we reckon…
Then, as the icing on the proverbial sticky bun, we have our Lord of the Rings moment…the return of the King. Anthony Stokes, Hibernian legend, signs on the dotted line and has everyone absolutely bursting to get going today. If Carlsberg did Edinburgh football weeks, it was this week…
So on to proceedings.
Hibs were minus both Sir David and Darren through suspension and so there were enforced changes to the back line. Rocky kept goal behind a back four of Stevenson, Whittaker, Efe and Hanlon. A lot of folk thought there would have been a start for Fonts but Lenny went with the better, if not fitter player. McGinn, McGeouch, Bartley, Boyle and Swanson lined up to support Simon Murray up top. There was a place on the bench for the returning King, alongside the Leithuanians getting their first home game experience in the green and white of Hibernian.
Ahead of the kick off the Hibees were presented with the League flag as Rod Petrie collected the League trophy on behalf of the club. It was a moment we had all longed for but, as sometimes can happen, the other team went about trying to spoil the party. Hibs were a bit more sluggish than their opponents in the opening exchanges, and fell behind to Chris Erskine’s opener after 7 minutes. Dylan had misplaced a couple of passes, Bartley and McGinn were looking a little ponderous and the goal could have been something of a set back but, thankfully, it merely served to act as the catalyst Hibernian needed to get their act together and get a foothold in the game.
Martin Boyle bagged an equaliser seven minutes later, as John McGinn went through the gears from okay to influential to Super. McGinn drove at a Thistle defence in rearguard action, delivering the ball into the box. It took a a bit of a ricochet before falling into the path of Squirrel. The intent and purpose in his reaction was palpable and, like a bushy tailed rodent with his nuts, he grabbed the prize and hit a cracking leveller past Cerny.
Boyle was at this stage looking the most likely to undo the visiting defence. Dylan made a probing run down the flank before delivering a ball into the area. Boyle looked certain to score, but ex-Hibee Calum Booth somehow managed to clear the ball when it looked like we were about to go 2-0 up. However, it wasn’t long before we finally take the lead. Swanson and McGeouch linked up cleverly to create space and opportunity. Swanson found Whittaker on the edge of the area. He needed absolutely no invitation to drive the ball into the bottom corner of the net. I don’t know if Simon Murray got anything on the shot but it didn’t ultimately matter. Hibees were back in business and the ground was full of anticipation.
At half time, they went in a worthy 2-1 up.
In the second half, Hibs continued where they had left off and Boyler continued to give Booth nightmares with his pace down the right. After about 5 minutes into the half, he was found guilty of hauling Squirrel down in the box – and the referee (who was keech most of the afternoon) couldn’t deny Hibs a clear penalty. Swanson tried briefly to persuade Murray to let him take the spot kick but it was our red haired goal machined who would fire Hibs into a 3-1 lead on the 51st minute. Girls don’t like boys, girls like Simon Murray rang out around the ground. Eight goals now so far this season. Boys don’t like girls, boys also like Simon Murray
Boyle nearly provided another goal for Murray, but his shot unfortunately came back off the post….much to the relief of the rattled Thistle back line.
The remainder of the match saw each team make enforced substitutions. Doolan went off for the away team and we lost Bartley with a dead leg – sustained in an accidental collision with Steven Whittaker The biggest roar of the day was to come when Hibs replaced Swanson with Anthony Stokes. He was to come on and play a few bits of interplay with such as McGinn but it was obvious that he needs time and training to get up to speed. Although the Ayr game on Tuesday might provide an opportunity to get some useful miles on the clock.
The other incident of note in the closing stages was a ridiculous situation where John McGinn had a free kick given against him in favour of the brutal Partick No 6, Osman. It was an incident worthy of a Grant Stott run in the pantomime…McGinn clearly feeling aggrieved. Within minutes he went through the big daftie in the away defence and got himself booked for his troubles, giving Osman the thumbs up in thanks, on receiving his yellow card.
The ratings…Hibees are top of the hit parade on Flag Day.
Rocky – another outing, another solid performance from the man with the reflexes and, erm, eyes of a tiger
Lewis – tenacious and busy from the off, he ran 500 miles and would have run 500 more
Whittaker – good goal and generally very good outing. Like the Eurythmics, he felt it was good to be back home again
Efe – ach, another Efe efternoon. Glides and sashets through things, occasionally coming a cropper. But we are pleased Brendan released him and let him go
Hanlon – I was worried at the start, kept looking for signs of fatigue but he came through this well. He is hopelessly devoted to you.
McGinn – don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, he started slowly but was influential at very important times.
McGeouch – a slow burner of a game. Built it up, tore it down
Bartley – slow burner number 2. Came off worse in a collsion with Whittaker, who’d have thought that of The Boxer?
Swanson – the creative spark. A very Happy Hour
Boyle – Eat, sleep, race, repeat.
Murray – Girls don’t like boys, Girls like Simon Murray
Stokes – We like to praise you
Murray – The light is always green
Dave – Sunshine on Leithuanian
Man of the Match – officially Simon Murray and, again, it is hard to argue. Shout outs for Swanson, Whittaker, Boyle and Hanlon (given his circumstances).
I hope you all enjoyed Flag Day. I hope anyone who can gets along to the cup game on Tuesday. Please try to.
In the meantime, an alterntive lyric for the ear worm in my lug. Enjoy what’s left of Flag Day…
With apologies to The Housemartins…
Too many Craig Leveins
Not enough Sauzee class ooze
Too many halos not enough heroes
Coming up with the (Chinese) goods
So you though you’d like to change the world
Decided to stage a cake bake sale
For the stand, for the poor
It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean
Try shaking a box in front of Budge Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams
It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean
Too many hands in too many pockets
Not enough hands on Hearts
Too many ready to call it a day
Before the day starts
So you thought you’d like to see us healed
Thank you…thank you
It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean
Try shaking a box in front of Budge Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams
It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean
Flag day, flag day, flag day, flag day…

SK11


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