Hibs decide to swim rather than sink when Dundee turn on the taps

There was a moment in this Betfred Cup Group B decider when one worried for Hibs a little.

Melker Hallberg celebrates Hibs' fourth goal.
Melker Hallberg celebrates Hibs' fourth goal.

Leading 1-0 but still looking a shade brittle, Dundee equalised on 71 minutes and Hibs, on the back of a painful derby defeat by Hearts and a limp display in Aberdeen, had to decide whether to sink or swim.

They chose the latter emphatically. Within ten minutes of Dundee’s leveller, they had bagged three goals themselves and roared into a 4-1 lead. Four wins out of four, top of the pool and some much-needed confidence restored.

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Not had it easy

Stevie Mallan blasts the ball past Jack Hamilton to give Hibs the lead.

This has not been a straightforward cup group for Hibs. Manager Jack Ross has needed to delve to the very bottom of his bag, using his squad to its full as international call-ups, injuries, suspensions and self-isolation rules never allowed to him pick anything close to his first-choice XI for previous matches against Brora, Cove and Forfar.

Dundee, the final opponents in this group, are no pushovers either, with a number of players boasting top-flight experience and the stardust provided by the ageing yet still creative Charlie Adam. He and Hibs’ midfielder Joe Newell were a pleasure to watch.

Marvel at Mallan

One of the men brought into the Hibs team was Stevie Mallan. The 24-year-old has found it hard to break into the starting XI, but he took his chance here.

In each of his three seasons at Easter Road so far, he has dished up a wonder-goal, a long-range strike set the pulse racing. In 2018, he delivered it in July against NSI Runavik, while last year it came in a derby in September, a raker past Joel Pereira. We’ve had to wait until November for this season’s strike, but it was worth it, a lovely dipping effort from well outside the box.

Kevin’s back at it

Striker Kevin Nisbet will claim the second goal, although it appeared to hit Dundee’s Jordan McGhee on the way in.

Much has been written about Nisbet recently, given the tragic death of his father and his unfortunate penalty miss against Hearts at Hampden. He put in an excellent display here, full of energy, movement and guile. The character of this young man is such that he will be back among the goals before too long.

Story of the match

Mallan’s opener came on ten minutes and while Hibs threatened, they could never quite put Dundee away.

The visitors rallied in the second period and an equaliser became increasingly likely. Their goal was sumptuous, Christie Elliott sneaking in at the back post to convert a gorgeous cross from Paul McGowan.

Hibs responded by rattling through the goals. McGhee turned the ball beyond Hamilton under pressure from Nisbet on 76 minutes and four minutes after that, Jamie Gullan converted from close range after lovely move involving Nisbet and Martin Boyle.

Two minutes after that, substitute Melker Hallberg got in on the act, drilling in another cross from Boyle.

It was the perfect response and gives Hibs some impetus. After all, they’ll need it on Saturday, when Celtic come calling on league duty. And when Dundee return in two weeks when this duo do it all again in the last 16.

Hibs: Barnes; McGinn, McGregor, Hanlon, Doig (Mackie 72); Wright (Gullan 72), Mallan (S McGinn 87), Newell, Murphy (Hallberg 79); Boyle (Bradley 87), Nisbet.

Dundee: Hamilton; Elliott, Kerr, McGhee, Marshall; Byrne; McGowan, Robertson, Adam McDaid; Mullen.

Referee: John Beaton.