Buoyant Hibernian nearer to ending century-long wait

Hibernian 2 - St Mirren 0
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The Independent Football

When you have been kept waiting 103 years, it is perhaps premature to talk about green lights. But Hibernian's perennial quest to get their hands back on the Scottish Cup edged a step closer yesterday. Scott Brown and Garry O'Connor secured the Edinburgh club's passage into the last four at a vibrant Easter Road with goals that quelled St Mirren's adventure in a intriguing quarter-final.

When you have been kept waiting 103 years, it is perhaps premature to talk about green lights. But Hibernian's perennial quest to get their hands back on the Scottish Cup edged a step closer yesterday. Scott Brown and Garry O'Connor secured the Edinburgh club's passage into the last four at a vibrant Easter Road with goals that quelled St Mirren's adventure in a intriguing quarter-final.

There is a feelgood factor about Easter Road these days, and this match was close to an all-ticket sellout. St Mirren's travelling support also deserve credit, their 3,000 fans providing a raucous backdrop. That endorsement contributed to a fine opening half from the First Division side. They had to survive two scares from O'Connor in the opening 13 minutes, the Scotland striker narrowly firing one angled shot wide and forcing the visiting goalkeeper, Craig Hinchcliffe, to parry another away.

They then had a clear chance themselves, when Alan Russell pounced on a mistake by Gary Caldwell but failed to stab his shot beyond Simon Brown.

The Hibernian goalkeeper's namesake, Scott, was making an effective contribution from midfield, and it was his pass that released O'Connor just after the half-hour. Hinchcliffe denied the striker, however, touching his shot over the bar.

Scott Brown turned predator rather than provider in first-half stoppage time. Hibernian patiently worked the ball across a packed defence before Steven Fletcher spotted an opening and threaded a pass in for Brown, who thrashed a right-foot shot under Hinchcliffe's dive to give Hibs a flattering lead.

St Mirren actually have a far more recent Scottish Cup pedigree than their hosts, winning the trophy in 1987. Certainly Gus MacPherson's young side had a real go at restoring parity in the second half.

However, that desire left them exposed. Their captain, Kevin McGowne, had to use all his experience to snuff out O'Connor just after the hour. Yet, when Simon Lappin had a fierce shot blocked by a green wall of frantic Hibernian defenders and Stewart Kean volleyed wide after Kirk Broadfoot's free-kick, you sensed a twist in the tale.

It was an illusion. Hibernian profited from that escape 14 minutes from time with a ruthless counterattack that saw O'Connor kill the tie.

Ian Murray's 50-yard ball was more clearance than pass, but it sailed over McGowne for the eager O'Connor to gallop on to, before rounding Hinchcliffe and steering a composed finish into the empty net.

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