By: Hibernian Media on 17 Aug, 2019 18:35
Hibernian were taken all the way to extra-time this afternoon by plucky Morton before eventually overcoming them by a 5-3 scoreline to book their place in the next round of the Betfred Cup.
The Easter Road men looked comfortable going into the closing stages of the first period and were leading through goals from Scott Allan and Josh Vela only for Morton to level before the break thanks to Bob McHugh and an own goal from Lewis Stevenson.
Florian Kamberi restored Hibs’ lead early in the second half only for Morton to once again haul themselves level with virtually the last kick of normal time through a deflected strike from Reghan Tumilty.
In extra-time Hibernian once moved ahead through Kamberi before making sure of the victory thanks to a classy finish from substitute Christian Doidge.
Paul Heckingbottom made six changes following last weekend’s defeat from Rangers, whilst also handing out a Hibernian debut to on loan winger Glenn Middleton.
Chris Maxwell, David Gray, Vykintas Slivka, Stevenson and Kamberi all returned to the starting XI.
The return of Stevenson was a timely boost for Hibernian, and it was a milestone afternoon for the full back as he made his 450th appearance for the club, whilst also playing alongside Paul Hanlon for the 300th occasion.
Hibernian carved out the first opportunity of the afternoon when Daryl Horgan’s cross from the right found Kamberi’s run between two Morton defenders however the Swiss was just unable to get anything on the ball to turn it toward goal.
Morton also started brightly and had a couple of early efforts through a blocked Nicky Cadden shot and then a powerful strike from Reece Lyon who had time to produce a better finish.
The deadlock was broken in the 19th minute when Middleton’s weighted cross found the run of Allan who took a touch to control before slamming an angled effort beyond Danny Rogers.
Hibernian were putting the visitors under pressure and Kamberi had two efforts in quick succession that could have seen the hosts double their advantage.
A second Hibernian goal was merely delayed and arrived in the 31st minute when Kamberi’s clever pass slipped Horgan in on the right and from his driven cross Vela smashed the ball into the net for his first goal in green and white.
Hibernian appeared comfortable, however, Morton reduced the deficit seven minutes before the break when McHugh slotted in from close range following a driven delivery from Cadden.
The goal had come against the run of play and gave the visitors, who had struggled somewhat until then, renewed hope.
Indeed, two minutes before the interval and full back Lewis Strapp could have equalised after being picked out by Chris Millar’s hanging cross, only to send his unchallenged header wide of goal.
Worryingly for Heckingbottom was how quickly his side surrendered their two-goal advantage as Morton levelled when Aidan Nesbitt’s cross was headed toward goal by McHugh and was turned in by the unfortunate Stevenson.
Both sides returned unchanged following the break and the opening ten minutes were largely a non-event, however the game burst into life once more in the 55th minute as Hibernian regained the lead.
A terrific ball over the top of the Morton defence from Slivka produced a race between Kamberi and Rogers with the striker getting there before the goalkeeper and rolling it into the empty net for his third goal of the campaign.
The visitors then wasted a good opportunity to hit back soon after when Jacobs was picked out from a corner kick, unmarked and just eight yards from goal. As Easter Road held its breath the Morton man headed wide.
Hibernian turned up the pressure on their opponents in the final ten minutes as Rogers made two crucial saves to keep his side in the match.
First, the Morton keeper saved from substitute Fraser Murray at his near post before stopping a Vela effort from point-blank range.
In between those saves Hanlon saw his header cleared from the goal-line as Hibernian went close to a fourth goal of the afternoon.
In the dying embers of the match Morton once again found a way through the home defence when substitute Tumilty’s effort ricocheted off Whittaker to leave Maxwell helpless and spark wild celebrations amongst the 524 visiting supporters.
That ensured the match would go to extra-time where Hibernian made a positive start as Murray’s header came back off the post.
Worryingly for the home side the runs of the Morton players were not being tracked properly and that resulted in free efforts at goal for Jim McAlister and Brian McLean although neither were on target.
Substitute Murray was getting into good shooting positions for Heckingbottom’s side and he again went close with an angled drive had Rogers beaten only to finish just wide of the far post.
A minute before the half-time interval in extra time Hibernian took the lead for the third time this afternoon as Kamberi raced onto Allan’s through ball to drill it beyond Rogers for his second goal of the match.
A minute after the restart and Hibernian had goalkeeper Maxwell to save for keeping them ahead as he produced an instinctive block to deny Tumilty.
Hibernian made sure of the win when Doidge collected a ball over the top from Murray to dink it over the advancing Rogers and slot into the empty net.
Hibernian: Maxwell, Gray (Whittaker 73’), Hanlon, Vela, Horgan (Doidge 91’), Slivka, Stevenson, Middleton (Murray 78’), Kamberi, Allan, McGregor (Jackson 13’). Unused Substitutes: Marciano, Newell, Shaw.
Morton: Rogers, McLean, Jacobs (Orsi 116‘), Millar (Sutton 79’), McAlister, Nesbitt (Salkeld 83’), McHugh, Strapp, Lyon, Blues (Tumility 76’), Cadden. Unused Substitutes: Ramsbottom, Grant, Muirhead.
Referee: Alan Muir.
Image: Alan Rennie.