Match Preview : Hibs v Rangers, Saturday 230515, kick-off : noon.

Match Analysis
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The match is the second leg of the Scottish Premiership Play-Off, semi-final. Rangers lead 2-0 from the first leg, and the winners go on to meet Motherwell in the Play-Off Final, also two legged.

Two legged ties against the cabbage and ribs are hens' teeth in the strictest sense. Of course there are any number of old League Cup sectional games, and Scottish Cup ties that culminated in replays. The 1978-79 Scottish Cup final against the first Scottish team to wear green ran to three games, Rangers eventually emerging victorious 3-2. We have not faced a fellow Scottish team in European action, thus two legged affairs are comparatively rare.

Precedent salvation arrives courtesy of a couple of several year periods in both the seventies and the eighties when the structure of the League Cup was a moveable feast. The quarter and semi-finals became two legged ties and we drew Hibs once in both periods. The first was 1970-71 season, Rangers had finished top of their League Cup section on 11 points. The section included Dunfermline, Motherwell, and Morton; it was the Cappielow men that secured a goal less draw at Ibrox to deny the perfect twelve. Hibs were the quarter-final opposition in September'70. The first leg was at Easter Road and Rangers comfortably triumphed 1-3, courtesy of a Graham Fyfe double and a first minute strike by Alfie Conn. A fortnight later, Ibrox hosted 56,000 and a replication of the scoreline. Rangers 3-1 victory saw an aggregate win of 6-2. Graham Fyfe notched again, wee Doddie and Ham and Egg scoring the others.

I attended the second match as a schoolboy and remember the game/tie turned on Peter McCloy saving a Joe McBride penalty early in the first half. The very thought of Hibs being awarded a spot kick tomorrow, and Bell saving it, leads to a full spectrum of emotion I would rather forego. Further, I remember the talk of the Enclosure being Colin Stein's £25 fine for being sent off in Germany. A working man's weekly wage! Rangers went on to famously secure the League Cup that season, a precocious 16 year old, Derek Johnstone leaping between Jim Craig and Billy McBungle to nod a Wullie Johnston cross into the far corner. After five long trophy-less years, the light at the end of the tunnel was just visible.

The second two legged affair with Hibs was season 1985-86 in the semi-final this time. The League Cup was now, the Skol Cup and it was played from start to finish in the first three months of the season. The action produced was most popular, crowds rose and the sponsor's strapline of, 'you're a scholar' echoed around the terraces. The beer was pysh. Again, the first leg was at Easter Road and Rangers dominated a goal-less first half. The game, maybe even the tie turned midway through the second period over 10 minutes. We were awarded a penalty and Alan Rough saved from McCoist, Hibs scored twice in the ensuing eight minutes, Chisholm and Gordon Durie doing the damage. A two week period elapsed and the Hibees arrived at Ibrox in front of 40,000. We gave them a right doing, Davie Cooper slotted a 30 yard free kick into the postage stamp on the half-hour mark, and optimism rose to, "bring on the Celtic" levels.

I was abroad and listened to the second half commentary, courtesy of the BBC World Service. My excitement threatened my professionalism as in the last ten minutes, Ally Dawson rounded Rough, and .............. failed to get a shot off, preferring to square the ball for Hunter to swipe at the sphere and inadvertently guide it back into the Keeper's arms. A 1-0 victory was not enough, we were out 1-2 on aggregate and our two year tenure as Skol Cup holders ended.

Thus, from memory, we are one all with Hibs in two legged matches. Tomorrow, with a two nil advantage, I hope we can achieve the upper hand in this mini series, without drama?.

I doubt it, we know from many a European adventure, that a two zip first leg lead in a very strong position on paper. Mentally, it's a classic stick or twist situation. Again, we can trawl the memory banks of more recent continental experience; Dortmund overturned that score line with an equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time, and won the tie on penalties. The opposite being Parma in Champions League qualification. We lost a goal in the second half in northern Italy, but then stepped out and rattled their goal frame twice in the remaining time, to secure a quite comfortable 2-1 triumph. Of course, the Hibees themselves succumbed last season after a first leg 0-2 win at Hamilton. Their loss mirrored ours in Dortmund.

Stuart McCall has been a master of both mis' and disinformation these last ten days, "no intention of training on plastic", "I fear a burn out", and "we need to freshen up". I suspect the team will remain the same? The formation may vary, a return to the 3-5-1 that won 0-2 two months past at Easter Road? Too many questions and I hope Gersnetters conduct a fever pitch debate on the matter, anything that aids the passage of time. I am consumed by the possibilities of events swirling around tomorrow high noon.

I predict a 1-1 draw, and progress for a pop at the claret and amber.



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