Hibernian falling short in the Scottish Cup has been a predictable source of heartbreak for fans of the Cabbage for over a century now. They’ve lost all 10 finals since their last tournament triumph in 1902. You might think Rangers are a banker to win this year’s showpiece, but the facts and form don’t back that up.
Here are five reasons Hibs can defy history and triumph this afternoon.
They’re strong at the back
It’s Hibernian’s goal-getters who have stolen most of the headlines this season, so it might surprise a few to hear that they had the joint-best defensive record during the Ladbrokes Championship’s regular season, and have conceded just four times in their six Scottish Cup fixtures this season.
Underpinned by the experienced Paul Hanlon and – in David Gray’s absence from injury – Liam Fontaine, the Hibees defence have produced five shut-outs in their last nine outings, and have managed clean sheets en route to victory over Premiership sides Dundee United and city rivals Heart of Midlothian already, in this cup run.
They know how to beat Rangers
Easter Road was one of only two Championship grounds where Rangers didn’t pick up a single point in the 2015-16 Ladbrokes Championship campaign, losing 2-1 and 3-2 to the Hibees.
What may trouble ‘Gers boss Mark Warburton more than anything is that Hibs used virtually the same formula to win both games.
The former was won by Jason Cummings’ individual flair and a well-worked goal from a corner, nodded home by Paul Hanlon. The second began with a one-man goal from the young striker, and wrapped up with Niklas Gunnarsson’s instinctive finish from – yep – another corner.
That combination of flair and effective, tactically-astute set-pieces has caused Rangers to come unstuck twice already this season. There’s no reason that can’t happen again.
Cummings is a sensational talent
Having been released by Hearts as a teenager back in 2012, the prolific hitman has been making the Gorgie club regret their decision as the jewel in the crown for their Edinburgh rivals.
Cummings famously described himself as possessing “a touch like an angel” after scoring twice in a 3-1 win at Ibrox back in 2014, and it’s been clear from the get-go that Hibs have a player on their hands whose self-belief matches his talent.
It’s 25 goals and counting this season for the 20-year-old forward, and while he’s a man for every occasion – having scored against eight of the Championship’s nine opponents – the big stage could be where the confident Scotland U21 international shines brightest. And talking of handling the big occasions…
This is a new Hibs team, unburdened by history
Hibs’ miserable record in Scottish Cup finals of yore has created an idea that this side lacks that ‘big-game mentality’, and while a last-gasp defeat to Falkirk in the Premiership play-offs didn’t help dispel the idea, the current Hibs side have got the job done under pressure plenty of times this season, often against top teams.
At 2-0 down against fierce rivals Hearts after 79 minutes, they clawed back a draw before winning the Cup replay. Under pressure and level against Aberdeen with 10 minutes remaining, the Cabbage went on to win 2-0.
With defeat looking likely at Livingston in April, the closing minutes saw – you guessed it – another vital Hibs victory in the battle for second spot in the Ladbrokes Championship.
The young crop of talent at the Leith outfit are largely unburdened by the disappointments of the past, and far from throwing away games this season, they’ve been remarkably resilient.
Alan Stubbs is an excellent young manager
After a patchy run in Spring 2015 when Hibs’ go-to system of flat 4-4-2 came unstuck with three successive defeats, Stubbs has shown himself to be skilled in building a flexible system for his Hibs players.
From the attacking 3-5-2 which beat Rangers last month to the 4-5-1 which stifled Queen of the South in a recent 2-0 victory, and Stubbs’ successful experimentation with Marvin Bartley as a deep-lying midfielder – he’s shown that Hibs can adapt depending on the game.
Many sides having struggled to adapt their systems to deal with a Rangers side who dominate possession and almost always attack from the get-go, but versatile Hibs have had the measure of them twice this season already. Can they replicate that form and end their Scottish Cup hoodoo?
Hibernian look the best value at 10/3 to win in 90 minutes, with 17/20 for a Rangers victory and 11/4 that this heads to extra-time.
And those backing Stubbs’ stars to cruise to Hampden glory can enjoy this fantastic price boost – Hibernian to be leading at half-time and full-time was 6/1 NOW 7/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.