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Thursday Sport on 7th July 2022, Derek’s report, Preston Athletic v Hibernian XI

todayJuly 8, 2022


Preston Athletic 0-7 Hibernian XI

A beautiful summer evening in East Lothian brought around 400 fans down to Pennypitt Park to see home side Preston Athletic entertain a young Hibs Development side who once again had Darren McGregor at centre half. After two minutes, a driving run by Joao Balde set up a chance for Robbie Hamilton to bring out a good block from home keeper Lenin Flood and it would prove to be a busy night for the Preston custodian. The resultant corner saw Connor Young deliver onto the head of Jacob Blaney but the header lacked conviction. Young fired over from the visitors from around 23 yards after five minutes and then Hamilton put Jacob MacIntyre in to lift the ball past keeper Johnson but Paul Currie got back for the home side to hook the ball off the line. Ethan Laidlaw then sent Young into the Athletic penalty area and keeper Flood took a knock as he dived at the feet of the Hibs striker as he made a brave stop. The visitors looked for a spot kick after sixteen minutes when Kanayo Megwa went down but the free kick was awarded just outside the box for a shirt pull and came to nothing. Three minutes later, Murray Aiken worked hard to set up Young for another 20 yard drive which again went over the top, but the pressure on the home defence was pretty relentless. Euan Donaldson lost possession for the home side 30 yards out to J. MacIntyre and he found Hamilton who rolled the ball into the path of Balde but his 25 yard drive was straight down the throat of keeper Flood. Hamilton was then put through one on one with keeper Flood and the keeper did well to get a toe to the ball as the Hibs youngster attempted to round him, although the visitors were looking for a spot kick here too but nothing was forthcoming. On the half hour, Andrew McNeill pulled down Balde 30 yards out and Youngs left foot set piece moved in the air but Flood held on. J. MacIntyre then set up another chance for Hamilton to drive wide before on 33 minutes, a low shot from Aiken saw Flood make a good diving save low to his right. Flood then made two saves in quick succession from Hamilton drives and for all their domination, a combination of wasteful finishing and a bit of over elaboration plus a good display from home keeper Flood meant the visitors still hadn’t made the breakthrough. Two minutes from the break, a nice run and cross from Oscar MacIntyre put the ball right onto the head of Young who rose unchallenged seven yards out only to head the ball away from goal rather than on target and it was a moment which probably summed up the visitors first half, with good chances being created and then spurned at regular intervals. The halftime whistle brought some relief for a Preston side who had been under the cosh, but who had kept their discipline and their shape to stay in the game, whilst for Hibs, the lead up play was lovely to watch and they hadn’t been tested at all, but it was a first half where their cutting edge had so far deserted them.
Preston introduced some fresh legs at the break in the shape of Sean Ward and Anes Subasic. Young sent Laidlaw through after 47 minutes and once again home keeper Flood made an excellent block. However, the deadlock was finally broken after 48 minutes as a Young free kick from 25 yards bounced right in front of the diving Flood who could only parry the ball into the net, a tough break for a keeper who had performed well on the night. A minute later it was two as Balde began the move with a pass to O. MacIntyre who drove forward from halfway before slipping a nice ball through to Young and he showed some delightful footwork to make space and slip the ball under keeper Flood from fourteen yards. The visitors next attack saw Young pulled back by McNeill but this time the young Hibs centre forward fired his 25 yard set piece a yard over, just before Preston introduced Kyle Baker and Cameron Laidlaw into the action. Baker made an immediate impact as he muscled his way along the goal line into the Hibs box forcing McGregor to concede the corner. Laidlaw then played a nice ball towards the edge of the Hibs box, but Baker wasn’t on the same page and had checked out of his run. After 59 minutes, J. MacIntyre strode forward to the edge of the Preston box and his angled 18 yard drive saw Flood pull off a brilliant full length diving save to his left for a corner and Young’s excellent delivery had the keeper tipping the ball over from almost under his crossbar. This time Blaney sent his corner long and McGregor headed the ball down for Young to set himself and then thunder a ten yard half volley home for a thirteen minute hat trick. Two minutes later, Laidlaw was the creator as he played in Hamilton with a nice diagonal pass and the Hibs no7 was composed as he rolled home number four from twelve yards with 63 minutes on the clock. With 68 minutes gone, Hibs replaced the excellent Balde with Josh McCulloch and two minutes later, a five man passing move got the finish it deserved as Young drove crisply home all along the ground from fourteen yards for his fourth and Hibs fifth of the evening. With a quarter of an hour remaining, Young had a go from fully 40 yards and it wasn’t all that far away and this was to be his last contribution as he was given a well earned rest after 77 minutes, with Rudi Molotnikov taking his place. Subasic forced another corner off McGregor with ten minutes left and Kyle Somers put the cross onto the head of Currie but it looped onto the roof of the Hibs net from around nine yards. Hibs brought on their remaining two substitutes, Harry Wright and Owen Hastie, with eight minutes remaining, and Wright’s first contribution was to drive forward before finding Molotnikov inside the Preston box and he took one touch and then smashed an angled fourteen yard drive across keeper Flood and high into the top corner for a spectacular strike. Five minutes from time, Hastie ran strongly at a Preston defence who were running on empty and his pass saw Laidlaw’s first effort blocked but the ball ran back to Hastie who had continued his run and he was able to drive the ball home from a tight angle for the visitors seventh. The final whistle from referee Will Pare would have been welcomed by a home side who will doubtless take heart from an organised first period, but it was a different story in the second as full time fitness and some ruthless finishing saw the visitors cruise home. However, as Preston co-manager Paul McGregor said at the end, this was a free hit for his side and overall, the men from East Lothian will take plenty from a tough workout into their next game at home to Pumpherston this Saturday.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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