Monday, 26 May 2014

Stranger than fiction

And so Accies discover a new, more exciting way to win promotion. Nobody can deny the events of Easter Road were hugely exciting and entertaining, and as exhilarating for Accies as they were devastating for Hibs.

Nobody, even most of our own fans, expected us to do it. The first leg had been a big disappointment - somebody summed up that game as "Accies played the football, but Hibs scored the goals", and the least that can be said is that we dominated the first half. But the bottom line is we lost 0-2 at home, and only the biggest optimists felt we could overturn that deficit in the away leg.

The script required a more urgent Accies than in the first game, with greater penetration: Jason Scotland, in particular, duly obliged. It required Accies to score the first goal, preferably early on, and in 12 minutes, Jason Scotland obliged again. It required an equaliser in 90 minutes, and with 1 minute 20 seconds to spare, a sublime combination featuring Gordon, MacKinnon, Scotland and Andreu led to the last named blasting into the net. That took us into extra time.

Accies dominated from start to finish, played the best football, had a clear goal scoring chance denied when referee Collum missed a blatant cynical foul in the second half, and could well have won by more in normal time. If we had, Hibs could have had no complaints, and it might have saved them later agony.

After a great game, extra time was an anticlimax, with both teams exhausted, and so the penalty shootout arose.

I don't know who would have taken the fifth Accies penalty - I've read Alex Neil, I've read Jesus Garcia Tena - but it wasn't needed, because Gillespie, Andreu, Antoine-Curier and Scotland all coolly scored, while Cuthbert saved two out of five Hibs pens.

The media have focused on Hibs' dramatic fall, and the fall-out, but these are trivial concerns to this blog. This was all about Accies' triumph, and manager Alex Neil winning promotion in his first full season in charge. It was about a special blend of youth, such as Gillespie, Gordon, Crawford and Longridge, with experience in the shape of the likes of Cuthbert, Canning, Neil and Scotland, gelling into a successful team unit. And it was about an unforeseen conclusion to a rollercoaster season.

In time, we'll move on to speculate about our prospects in the top flight, back where we spent three seasons just two years ago. We'll look ahead with relish to contests with the best teams in the country. But that's for another day: the here and now is about celebrating one of the greatest victories in Accies' post-war history, and dreaming of what it may portend.

Thanks and congratulations are due to everyone associated with this phenomenal success. Hibs 0 Accies 2, aggregate 2-2, Accies win 4-3 on penalties, Hibs are relegated to the Championship, Accies are promoted to the Premiership.

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