And after just six minutes, it appeared that Hibs were on their way to slipping up, trailing 1-0 thanks to a Craig Wighton strike. However, to their immense credit, Shaun Maloney’s men recovered and, via goals from Demetri Mitchell, Kevin Nisbet and Chris Mueller, recorded a 3-1 win to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Hibs’ league form has been underwhelming, without a win in six matches, but they continue to be dab hands in the cup. It’s rare that they are not at Hampden at some point in a campaign, stretching back to the tenures of Alan Stubbs, Neil Lennon, Paul Heckingbottom and Jack Ross, and had last season’s runners-up not progressed here, further questions would have been asked of Maloney.
It has not been a straightforward start for the 39-year-old at Easter Road. A number of new signings needing to bed in, the sale of key forward Martin Boyle and inheriting a squad that were already underperforming under his predecessor Ross. This win will not assume all the concerns of his doubters, of which there are already a few in the Hibs support, but it keeps their participation in the competition alive and provides a platform to build upon when the league resumes next weekend.
Hibs were good here, in testing conditions. Arbroath are buoyant, two points clear at the summit of the Championship with a game in hand, just 12 matches from the finishing line. The part-timers have caught the imagination of Scottish football fans, and outside of their nine rivals in their division, there aren’t many who don’t want to see them win promotion.
Arbroath got the best possible start, with Wighton prodding home from close range after the ball fell to him in the penalty box. Hibs did not go into their shell though, far from spooked by the potential of a cup upset. They charged at their hosts, forcing seven first-half corners and testing out goalkeeper Derek Gaston multiple times. The veteran stood up to two Nisbet efforts and a shot from Chris Cadden but could not thwart Mitchell at the back post when he agreed to Lewis Stevenson cross past him on 20 minutes.
Arbroath could have been 2-0 up moments before, when referee Willie Collum ignored an offside flag for the “inactive” Wighton and Jack Hamilton not realizing the game was still live. Had he done so, he would have had a simple goal.
Hibs keeper Matt Macey stood tall after the break when Arbroath had their best spell, his save from Scott Stewart particularly important, and from that point Hibs took control of the game.
Nisbet made it 2-1 on 71 minutes, taking in Ewan Henderson’s cross and lashing the ball high past Gaston, before substitute Mueller got his first goal in Hibs colors from close range after Chris Hamilton failed to clear in his box on 87 minutes.
This was a job well done by Hibs – defending Ryan Porteous, rampaging full-back Cadden and Nisbet all impressed – and with three of their next four Premiership matches coming against the bottom trio in the league, there is hope that they can push on under Maloney.
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