Blues go down fighting

Stranraer players and fans celebrate their third goal
Stranraer players and fans celebrate their third goal

Hibernian 5, Stranraer 3

Stranraer bowed out of the League Cup after producing a spirited and battling performance that gained them great credit for their efforts as they pushed Hibernian to the limit in an eight-goal thriller.

The start couldn’t have been better when Stranraer forced a corner and opened the scoring. Chris Aitken delivered the cross and Jamie Longworth rose highest at the near post and nodded the ball into the far corner to stun the crowd of almost 6500.

Hibs took just five minutes to respond. Rowan Vine crossed from the left and Liam Craig headed powerfully home. This triggered a period of dominance from Hibs and the exciting talent of Abdellah Zoubir caused plenty of problems as Stranraer battled hard to contain them. His header from an Alan Maybury cross tested David Mitchell but he saved well.

Stranraer, under the cosh, used their possession well and ventured forward several times to test Ben Williams in the Hibs goal and Nelson had to look lively to clear a dangerous Grant Gallagher cross with Grehan and Longworth ready to pounce, while Frank McKeown headed an Aitken free kick over.

Hibs continued to threaten and there was little the keeper could do when Zoubir again who cut in off the left and let fly with a curling effort that may have taken a slight deflection en route but it still found the net.

Worse was to follow for the Blues barely a minute later as Vine charged down the right and rifled in a low cross that Scott Rumsby could only turn into his own net.

The second half started poorly for the Blues as Hibs made it 4-1 when Craig nipped in behind McKeown to collect a pass and poked past Mitchell.

Stranraer produced a fightback of which they can be proud. Chris Aitken picked up the ball in midfield, advanced and took the opportunity to bend a majestic 25-yarder past Williams to put the Blues back in the game.

And Stranraer were not finished. Gallagher forced a corner from nothing that led to a great reward. Aitken delivered and Michael Nelson, challenged by McKeown, could only divert the ball past his own keeper.

The home side looked shaky as Stranraer worked for an equaliser but on the hour mark the crucial eighth goal of night was presented to Hibs when the unfortunate Rumsby slipped in the box and handled Scott Robertson’s shot, resulting in a penalty which Craig smashed into the net for his hat-trick.

Stranraer boss Stephen Aitken was a proud man, having watched his part-timers give everything they had and match Hibs for the whole match and showing great character in battling back into the game.

Hibernian: Ben Williams, Paul Hanlon, Michael Nelson, Scott Robertson, Rowan Vine (Ross Caldwell 80), Liam Craig, James Collins, Lewis Stevenson, Alan Maybury (Ryan McGivern 46), Tom Taiwo, Abdellah Zoubir (Sam Stanton 84). Subs not used: James McPake, Sean Murdoch.

Booked: None

Goals: Craig 8, 48, 61 Pen, Zoubir 35, Rumsby OG 36

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Rumsby, Lloyd Kinnaird, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Andy Stirling, Grant Gallagher (Mark Docherty 81), Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 74), Ryan Borris (Mark Corocoran 57). Subs not used: David MacGregor, Chris Fahey

Booked: Rumsby

Goals: Longworth 3, Aitken 49, Nelson OG 53

Attendance: 6431

Referee: C Allan