Hibernian will return to Hampden Park on May 22nd to compete in the 2021 Scottish Cup final after defeating Dundee United 2-0 at the National Stadium in the semi-final.
Goals from man-of-the-match, Kevin Nisbet, and scourge of Dundee United, Christian Doidge, earned the Hibees a shot at glory against either St Johnstone or St Mirren in two weeks’ time.
In an open semi-final contest both sides created plenty of opportunities, however it was Hibs that were ruthless at one end of the park and disciplined at the other, to progress.
Jack Ross made three changes following last weekend’s league encounter with St Johnstone. Matt Macey, Melker Hallberg and Nisbet all returned to the starting XI with Ofir Marciano and Drey Wright dropping to the bench, whilst Alex Gogic missed out completely due to suspension.
The match got underway under the Hampden floodlights as the wet conditions and pre-match nerves made for slow opening.
Hibs were the first to threaten, winning a couple of early corner kicks before Josh Doig tried his luck from distance. The youngster looking to put United goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet under pressure early on, however his drive drifted off target.
Dundee United were themselves looking to make an early breakthrough and almost created one when Lawrence Shankland tried to put Ian Harkes through on goal, only to marginally overhit his pass. The Scotland forward perhaps should have looked to set up the unmarked Nicky Clark on his left who appeared to have been the better option.
Both sides were committed to attacking at every opportunity and Hibs were next to threaten when a Hallberg fizzed a powerful shot just wide with Mehmet rooted to the spot.
Dundee United were clearly looking to counterattack the gap left by Doig pushing forward and almost exploited it in the 14th minute when Marc McNulty raced away down the flank and his first-time cross was headed wide by Harkes as the Hibs defence were stretched.
Hibs were beginning to gain a foothold in midfield and consequently were pushing United back towards their goal.
In the 20th minute Ryan Porteous was able to advance 50 yards up the park before attempting to find Doidge; the ball was fortuitously deflected into the path of Jackson Irvine who looked to dink a shot over Mehmet, only to miscue his finish and it drifted wide of the far post.
The Easter Road men went close again three minutes later when Joe Newell’s cross from the right was flicked on by Irvine to Doidge at the back post, however on this occasion the Welshman could not turn it in at close range.
Moments later Hibs went close again. Martin Boyle’s cross from the right was into the feet of Nisbet, who spun and his shot on the turn went through the legs of Mark Reynolds and agonisingly wide of the far post.
The Hibs striker did not have long to wait before he was celebrating as Liam Smith made a mess of a clearance allowing Irvine to gather and from his lay-off Nisbet finished clinically, slotting the ball beyond Mehmet from the edge of the box for his 17th of the campaign.
Scotland internationalist Nisbet was in a menacing mood and could have added to his tally before the break, however his shot from distance failed to trouble Mehmet on this occassion.
United, trailing and looking for a way back into the match, reappeared after the break in a determined mood and had early opportunities through a Nicky Clark free kick and then a shot from Jeando Fuchs on the edge of the box, however neither were on target.
Hibernian doubled their lead in the 58th minute when Nisbet and Boyle combined to set up Doidge and the Welshman produced a wonderful finish from 18 yards to keep up his remarkable scoring record against United.
Newell had taken a knock in the first half and was unable to shake it off. He was replaced by Kyle Magennis as Dundee United took the game to Hibs in the final half-hour.
It had been a quiet afternoon so far for Matt Macey however he had to pull off a fine save at his near post to deny Lawrence Shankland after the striker had nipped in ahead of Porteous to meet McNulty’s cross.
McNulty then attempted a moment of magic with a rasping shot from 25 yards that flashed wide of goal before Jamie Robson volleyed wide when he appeared certain to score.
Hibs lost their second player of the afternoon to injury after Porteous limped off to be replaced by Darren McGregor.
Gaps were beginning to appear in the Dundee United defence as they pushed players forward in a desperate attempt to get back into the game and Boyle almost made them pay in the 73rd minute. The winger went on a wonderful run that saw him evade four challenges before Ryan Edwards cynically fouled him on the edge of the box.
From the resultant free kick Nisbet’s piledrive was tipped over the crossbar by Mehmet as Hibs almost secured a third goal.
They had opportunities on the counterattack to get a third with Boyle and Doidge trying their luck before substitute Jamie Murphy was denied by a wonderful save from Mehmet.
As the match moved into five added minutes United made a final push with Shankland going close with a shot from 12 yards that Paul Hanlon deflected into the arms of Macey.
In the dying seconds, a hooked shot from Shankland drifted over the top and that proved to be the final action of note as the referee’s whistle saw Hibs safely into yet another Scottish Cup final, with the Proclaimers once more ringing out around the National Stadium.
Dundee United: Mehmet, Smith, Reynolds, McNulty, Clark (Sporle 53’), Edwards, Robson, Butcher, Harkes (Pawlett 60’), Shankland, Fuchs. Substitutes not used: Doohan, Connolly, Chalmers, Appere, Davidson, Watson, Smith.
Hibernian: Macey, Hanlon, Porteous (McGregor 72’), McGinn, Doidge, Boyle, Newell (Magennis 60’), Nisbet (Murphy 83’), Hallberg, Doig, Irvine. Substitutes not used: Marciano, Gray, Wright, Stevenson, Laidlaw.
Referee: Bobby Madden.
Words: Richard Payne