With the country locked in the icy grip of the worst winter in living memory our groundhopping adventure had suffered something of a setback with the postponement of the New Year game between Alloa and Stirling. However, 21 days after the expedition up to Peterhead and Aberdeen we were back on the road (or in this case the rail) as we opted to go watch junior side Irvine Meadow take on the green giants of Edinburgh, Hibs, in the Scottish Cup.
After waking up to yet another snow flurry Kieran and I wrapped ourselves up and braved the winter chills to meet Jamie at Queen Street station. With public transport struggling to cope with the sub zero conditions we were perhaps somewhat fortunate to get a train that was not only on time but that also got us to Edinburgh’s Waverley Station relatively quickly. As a Glaswegian I have never felt entirely comfortable in our nation’s capital, it’s an odd feeling – like being a guest at a stranger's wedding. Anyway, one short taxi ride later and we had arrived at Easter Road.
The stadium is impressive, three banks of relatively new steep stands and a rather rickety older East Stand which looks a little out of place with the rest of the stadium. On advice from my Hibee boss we took our place in the dilapidated section of the stadium which apparently houses the more hardcore element of Hibs fans. Despite temperatures not being quite Aberdeen level (I swear I saw a polar bear at the beachfront that day) the snow had began to fall again and therefore the pre-match pie and Bovril was a welcome warmer. Unfortunately of the 2 pies Kieran had bought for me and him 1 appeared to be well cooked whilst the other was, well, a tad undone. I was too hungry to argue for the cooked one so quickly munched down the pasty pastry and devoured the hot Bovril. On sight of my pie Jamie opted for pizza and Bovril and apparently was a winning combination.
Hibs had suffered a dip of form lately after a superb 12 game unbeaten run. They had drawn with their Edinburgh rivals the week before and prior to that suffered a thumping home defeat to Rangers. They must’ve been rather disheartened then to see the junior equivalent of Rangers turn up to play them in the cup. Resplendent in royal blue and with their fans proudly waving union jacks and singing ditties about the British establishment Irvine Meadow rolled into town intent on a shock. Despite Hibs fielding their strongest XI it was the juniors who started strongly out the traps with former St Mirren striker Brian McGinty blasting a shot wide and they were denied a penalty when Richie Barr tumbled in the box. The referee deemed it ‘simulation’ and he was booked, much to the away fans chagrin.
For the opening half hour Hibs were simply awful, their defence looked all at sea without their talisman Bamba and the forward three of Riordan, Stokes and Nish contributing nothing. Naturally then it was they who took the lead when Riordan bundled home Wotherspoon’s cross. Irvine Meadow were not downhearted though and continued to press, Chris Strain slashing a rebound effort wide when he should’ve done better and McGinty again going close, this time hitting the post with a great curling effort. However just two minutes before the break Hibs doubled their advantage when Stokes danced past several players to set up Zemmama who finished well.
Half time and somehow Hibs had a comfortable advantage. They did not improve much after the break and the home fans, despite the scoreline, were exasperated with the standard of play against such lowly opposition. Indeed even after they made it three on the hour mark when Paul Hanlon competed a fine solo run with a low finish the home side still appeared to struggle to get out of 2nd gear. The junior side did wilt from then on however and Stokes nearly added a fourth but his shot cracked the post. By then the Hibs supporters were probably already dreaming of the next round draw and the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the news that Hearts had been dumped out by Aberdeen.
True, all credit would rightly go to Irvine Meadow for a gutsy and determined display (yet further proof for junior sides to be allowed the chance to compete in league football) but that’s the fourth time we’ve seen Hibs this season and it becomes all the more baffling each time to understand just how they are managing to do so well in the top flight. Jamie and I said with some relief that would be the last time we would see them on our journey until Kieran correctly pointed out that we will in fact be witnessing them again at Dundee next week. Unless of course if, as threatening, the next Ice Age is really upon us.
Journey - 6
Pie - 7
Bovril - 8
Ground - 7
Game – 6