It was impossible to recognise Motherwell in the first period. The team that brushed hearts aside at the weekend had transformed into a nervous, unsure group of players who were unable to play the simple game. Whether it was the loss of Lasley (Daley filled the gap) or the prospect of closing in on the runners up place or possibly the desperate fighting performance that relegation threatened Hibs produced, the effect was that we struggled badly.
A healthy attendance
The game was littered with defensive errors and Clancy was the first culprit. His header back to the 'keeper was woefully short and Griffiths nipped in, drew Randolph wide and squared to give Osbourne an easy conversion. The big home support tried to urge the claret and amber men to the equaliser but despite having lots of set pieces we could force a clear chance. Indeed we might have conceded a second when O'Connor reacted first to a corner and his glancing header shaved the post.
The half time team talk produced the desired result and from another loose header. Doherty this time, Ojamaa pounced. Stack pulled him down and Higdon scored from the spot. There was a sense that it was the visitors who were now uncertain and we piled on the pressure.
We escaped again though when Griffiths was presented with a great opportunity following a breakaway. This time Randolph was the winner and a few minutes later we took the lead. Higdon set up Daley and he reached the line at pace. he spotted Murphy on the run and the squared ball was duly tapped home.
The game was swinging from end to end and from a corner in front of the travelling fans Doherty found the ball at his feet and thrashed it into the net. We were not to be denied though and after a rocket from Ojamaa came off the bar, Murphy lobbed the ball back onto the six yard line. Higdon, back to goal, hooked it overhead and it nestled in the corner. Brilliant.
Ojamaa had the crowd roaring in expectation with every touch and his determination forced Doherty to bring him down for the second penalty of the night. Higdon scored again and celebrated his hat-trick in front of the Phil O'Donnell stand.
There was a nervous spell following Sproule's goal in 85 minutes and as the minutes ticked on Craigan came on to bolster the back line. The referee figured that five additional minutes were needed but there was to be no final twist.
The win puts us three points behind Rangers and a dozen ahead of Hearts. Let's hope that many of the bumper home crowd were inspired enough for the next home game when Aberdeen visit on cup business.