The Story of '97
by Craig Benson
by Craig Benson
Free entry for schoolkids and reduced prices boosted the crowd for this live, televised game on a wet, wild & windy night at Rugby Park which saw Dragoje Lekovic dropped in favour of Colin Meldrum. Kevin McGowne was out with a neck injury and replaced by Derek Anderson while Colin McKee was back in after compassionate leave. He replaced Ally Mitchell, who was carrying an ankle knock.
The visitors boasted 85-year-old Jim Leighton in goals and their three-man midfield consisted of Dow, the 743-year-old Ray Wilkins and he who won't be named.
It had been heaving it down with rain for most of the day, but the ground passed inspection by Willie Young, and we were on for a classic under the lights. Whoever weathered the wild, wet & windy weather... well... would win. (That's right kids. Alliteration is fun!)
The early exchanges were limited to long-range shooting which didn't trouble the goals. It turned out we were just getting our eye in for the conditions.
On seventeen minutes, the floodgates opened, and the goals began raining in (I see what you did there - Ed.).
A throw-in down our right-hand side, taken by Gus MacPherson, was blootered towards goal by McKee. That was only partly blocked by the Hibs defence. Paul Wright, playing against one of his many former teams, recovered possession and, while holding off his marker, played a lovely back-heel into the path of the incoming John Henry, who promptly put the laces right through the ball, smashing it into the net for his second goal of the season. His first coming in the reverse fixture in the first game of the season.
Just three minutes later we were ripped open by a fine passing move from the visitors. Our failure to clear our lines led to the ball breaking to Kevin Harper, who stuck a foot out and lobbed the ball passed Melly into the corner of the net. 1-1.
Three minutes on from that, we were back in the lead. A fine passing move of our own - after Hibs gave up possession cheaply - eventually found its way to Jim McIntyre who cut inside and walloped it from all of 30 yards out. Cleverly playing it off the wind and into the net beyond the despairing dive of Leighton. 2-1.
This time, we managed to hold on... for all of five minutes. Oh Melly, what were you thinking?!
A disputed goal kick (should've been a corner to us) was hopefully humped up the park. A backward header from Anderson caused all sorts of problems, sending Darren Jackson scampering down the wing. Melly was caught in about 17 minds and, as it turned out, every one of them was wrong. He missed the chance to 'Row Z' the ball, taking out his defender instead. He then decided to stick to the task at hand, and Jackson beat him for a second time.
With alarm bells going off all over our defence, and Melly having to queue to get back in, the ball finally fell to Andy Dow who hit a shot which managed to clear Dylan Kerr on the goal line by about three nanometres, with Melly watching on from the six yard line.
HALF TIME: Kilmarnock 2 - 2 Hibernian
Melly would get the chance to redeem himself in the second half. But first... five minutes after the break and we took the lead again. McIntyre played in an inch perfect cross for Tom Brown who held off his marker to set the ball up for Paul Wright, who absolutely leathered it from somewhere just outside Tromsø.
BOOM! as the ball broke the sound barrier, FIZZZZzzzz as the friction of the ball battering through the air set the atmosphere on fire, THWANG! went the net as it just managed to prevent the shot from ripping through it, saving the kids sitting behind the goal from an untimely demise.
"What a netbulger!" yelled Rob Hawthorne to the live TV audience, as Wright wheeled away in celebration to be dog-piled by his jubilant team-mates.
Could we hang on this time? Errr... yes!
Five minutes after Wright's netbulger, it was the Hibs defence who were all at sea as McIntyre's cross was met with a perfect head flick from... Pat McGinlay. It left Leighton in the middle of nowhere, as it looped into the net. This gave us the interesting stat of having had three shots on target but having scored four goals. 4-2 Killie.
The final action of the highly eventful night was, of course, the penalty save!
A string of good, solid saves had allowed Melly to claw back some confidence after his brain fart in the first half. The save from Jackson's penalty completed his redemption, earning him the Sky/Bell's Man of the Match. And giving our defence an easier end to the game than a one goal lead would have afforded them.
Team: Lekovic, MacPherson, Kerr, Findlay, Monty, Anderson, McKee, Henry, Wright, McIntyre, Brown.
Sub: Reilly for Henry.
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