Hibernian ensured there would be no Scottish Cup upsets this afternoon at Stair Park with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Stranraer.
The Easter Road men dominated throughout with a thoroughly professional performance and could have added to the four goals they scored against their League Two opponents.
Christian Doidge kept up his recent run of goals with a first half effort that settled any nerves and allowed Hibs to push on.
After the break Kevin Nisbet scored his 16th goal of the campaign with a wonderful free kick before Martin Boyle scored a brace to take his own tally to 14 for the season.
Hibs will face Motherwell next weekend in the quarter-final of the competition and stand 90 minutes away from a return to Hampden.
Jack Ross made two changes from the side that faced Rangers last weekend with Matt Macey and Kyle Magennis replacing Ofir Marciano and Alex Gogic in the starting XI. Youngster Ethan Laidlaw retained his place amongst the substitutes.
Stranraer made a bright start and had an early opportunity when Paul Hanlon fouled former Hibs striker Darryl Duffy on the edge of the visitors’ box. James Hilton took the free kick and would have been disappointed not to have tested Macey as his shot struck the defensive wall.
Hibs themselves has an opening early on when Josh Doig’s fantastic delivery flashed across the face of goal, only just out of the reach of Nisbet and Doidge.
The Easter Road men were growing into the game and starting to pen Stranraer back. They had two opportunities in quick succession as Nisbet headed just over from a Boyle cross before Boyle himself struck for goal moments later with a 25-yard effort that goalkeeper Greg Fleming did well to hold onto.
The pace and trickery of Boyle was proving too hot to handle for Stranraer and in the 23rd minute he skipped away from Hilton before picking out the unmarked Nisbet. The striker looked certain to add to his 15 goals this season, before uncharacteristically stabbing the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
Pressure was mounting on the hosts as Doidge, Boyle, Joe Newell and Nisbet all had shots at goal without seriously testing the Stranraer back-line who were putting their bodies on the line for their club.
Hibs full-backs were so far forward at times that they were almost playing as wingers and in the 36th minute Doig whipped a wonderful cross into the back post that was knocked down by Boyle into the path of Paul McGinn and he must have thought he was scoring only for the grounded Fleming to somehow push his shot over the crossbar.
From the corner kick Hibs finally broke the deadlock. After a bit of penalty box pinball the ball eventually dropped at the feet of Doidge who, with his back to goal, swiveled and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the back of the net.
It was the least Hibs deserved after a dominant first half showing and in the closing moments of the half Fleming kept his side in the tie with a wonderful one-handed save to deny a Ryan Porteous header before Nisbet flashed one over the crossbar.
Hibs started the second period as dominant as they finished the first and could have put the game to bed in the opening moments.
Once again Boyle was the provider with a wonderful delivery from the right that found Doidge peeling away from Aryton Sonkur, the Welshman attempted to find the far post with a looping header only for the ball to drop just over the crossbar.
Seconds later and a wonderful ball from Jackson Irvine in behind the home defence on the right found the run of McGinn and from his cut back Magennis was denied on the line by Sonkur.
The introduction of former Hearts man Jamie Hamill on 51 minutes gave Stevie Farrell’s side a lift and his free kick shortly after replacing Sean Burns almost created an unlikely equaliser. The veteran’s shot was wayward; however, it took a massive deflection to wrong-foot Macey and almost crept in at the far post.
The Stair Park men went even closer just a minute later when top scorer Thomas Orr’s net bound shot struck team-mate Duffy just in front of goal and fortuitously bounced to safety for Hibs.
It would prove to be a pivotal moment in the game as Hibs put the game to bed in 63 minutes. Nisbet grabbed his 16th goal of the campaign with a free kick from distance that deflected off the Stranraer defensive wall to catch out Fleming and find the back of the net.
Eight minutes later and Hibs made it 3-0. Doidge’s cross found the head of Nisbet who beat Fleming only for the ball to strike the far post and Boyle was quickest to react as he smashed the rebound into the net.
Despite Hibs progression in the competition now virtually confirmed, the Edinburgh side continued their relentless pursuit of more goals with Boyle having a strike deflected just wide by Sonkur before Hanlon and Nisbet combined with the former just off target with a header.
With eight minutes remaining Hibernian were awarded a penalty kick after Doidge’s header came back off the crossbar and Porteous was bundled over by Robertson. Boyle took the spot kick and finished emphatically to notch his second of the afternoon and his 14th of the season.
Stranraer almost grabbed a consolation six minutes from time when Hilton’s clever shot on the turn was kept out by a wonderful fingertip save from Macey.
Hibs finished the match on the attack with Irvine heading just over from a corner kick.
Hibernian will now face Motherwell at Easter Road Stadium in the quarter-final next weekend.
Words: Richard Payne
Images: Alan Rennie
Referee: David Munro