Aberdeen and Hibs will have to do it all again as this 3rd round tie ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw. Despite the importance of the match and the lure of having Gretna at home in the next round, less than 10,000 fans went to Pittodrie on the night as the match was beamed live on national TV.
The match was as predicted tight. Both teams had periods of possession and control. Clear chances were few but Killen should have put his team in front early when Shiels squared across the Dons box but couldn`t wrap his weaker left foot around it and the ball ran through to be cleared.
Ricky Foster began to show the benefits of his previous role as a winger. His pace and drive were causing real problems down the left as he took on the debutant Kevin McCann. He didn`t get much joy when taking on the youngster directly on the touchline but was able to cut inside and test young Andrew McNeil with a powerful drive and another occasion when he intelligently cut the ball inside for Lee Miller to shoot against a lunging Marthis.
The Dons really should have taken the lead in 23 minutes. Dempsey found himself in his correct position for once in the middle of the park, as bizarrely he began the match at wide left, and he had plenty time to see Mackie running free through the middle and timed the through pass perfectly. Mackie took the ball on the run and had time to actually slow down and pick his spot but the ball didn`t run smoothly forcing him a little wide and when Andrew McNeil came out to close, Mackie could only stab the ball at him which was saved. The rebound came out to Nicholson who fired in first time and again McNeil pulled off a great save but surely made it look more spectacular than necessary.
From that effort the Dons took control of the first half. Whilst they played some nice stuff it seemed that the spark and precision had left the young Hibs team and allowed Aberdeen to do so. The Dons were putting balls into spaces and crosses were leading to corners which kept all the pressure on Hibs but with the speed the away side had up front Jimmy could not commit his tall back line up to weigh in on the attacks.
Whilst Calderwood is apparently always looking to strengthen his outfield squad it has been evident for some time that he must look at the goalkeeping situation as again, Langfield, his first choice keeper was to gift a goal. Not for the first time has Langfield looked at fault and has cost the Dons dearly in the league all season.
This time it was Steven Whittaker who will surely be making Calderwood consider his number 1 options. His left footed, driven effort was put in from the left with quite a bit of pace and power but Langfield was well positioned for an easy take. He managed to get down well enough but spilled the ball from under him and into the on-running path of Ivan Sproule, who perhaps predicted another Langfield mistake, and tapped in leisurely to send his team in at half time a goal up slightly against the run of play.
Calderwood immediately took off Dempsey who had been totally ineffective on the left and surprisingly also Considine who had been excellent against Killen. Jimmy was as usual going for bust to stay in the cup and hoping to exploit what he perhaps thought was a weak Hibs centre half pairing . Brewster came on for his home debut against one of his former clubs and 17 year old Chris Maguire made his regular subs appearance. Mackie was pushed wide right to allow Brewster to take the ball down and allow players to run onto him but the risky ploy of leaving two V two at the back had the Dons fans sweating from kick off.
Aberdeen started lively, Maguire was looking in the mood to run at the defence and the game had opened up as Jimmy`s decisions insisted. The stalls were set out for an Aberdeen siege and for Hibs to pick them off with the counter attack.
Jimmy`s tactics took 8 minutes to pay off. Hart`s quick ball out of defence found Mackie hugging the touchline. He sprinted down the right and whipped a pacey ball into the box which was met by Brewster`s head to score his first for the Dons and for McNeil to concede his first ever professional goal.
John Collins withdrew Kevin McCann, who looks an excellent prospect for the Hi-Bees and replaced him with Stevenson in a tactical switch. In a testament to Michael Hart, Collins moved Sproule to the other wing to try his luck but it was Jimmy`s tactics that again brought the next goal. The removal of Considine allowed Killen room in the box he never had in the first half and he was able to bring down Michael Stewart`s chip through the centre with his chest, turn and volley excellently past Langfield to again give the away side the lead.
Calderwood`s response was to immediately bring on Steve Lovell for the unproductive Lee Miller but it was not he for once who scored the late goal for the Dons. In the 88th minute, the desperate Dons threw men onto the box and Scott Severin slung a Hibs clearance straight back into the dangerzone. It was met by the Dons goal scorer Brewster, again with his head, as he knocked down into the path of Nicholson who slammed in the equaliser despite the impressive McNeil getting a hand to his effort and the deflection it took from Jones.
The Dons are still in the tournament, they still have not lost to Hibs at home in the Scottish Cup but Calderwood knows the Easter Road return match will be a tough prospect. Hibs looked composed and have youth, speed and skill in abundance. They did out pass the Dons at times but excellent performances from Hart, Anderson, Foster, Severin and of course Brewster will give the Dons hope for the replay.
45 minutes looks a bit optimistic for Brewster. He looked slow running for knock downs and to pressure opponents but his awareness and ability to bring players into play are the reason his was brought to Pittodrie and that gamble paid off tonight as he himself said “Got us out of Jail”.
Calderwood said after the match “Hibs are a great team but we have an excellent record at Easter Road. They outplayed us tonight but we`re hard to beat and go there with confidence”.
Hibs were missing transfer rebels Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown. Steven Fletcher and Merouane Zemmama were also missing but it didn`t show as their youngsters again proved the manager correct in pitching them in and Kevin McCann should excite every supporter of the national team as his performance was tremendous and Andrew McNeil in goal will surely go on to add International caps to his career honours.
This was a good, end to end cup tie that displayed plenty of home-grown talent. Somebody somewhere will have perhaps been taking note as they prepare to take the reigns of the national team.
Jimmy’s gamble paid off this time. Nearly didn’t but it did. Aberdeen are still in the cup and third in the lead. His unorthodox methods don’t always work but Jimmy has belief in his players and believes they are capable of getting results in every match and they consistently prove him right.