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Analysis: Roaming forwards win cup for Hibees

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Hibernian came from behind to defeat Aberdeen in the Scottish Youth Cup Final. Grant Murray’s men lifted the silverware after an excellent second half performance was enough to see them overcome the Dons.

Hibs began the game playing with a back five allowing their wing-backs Callum Donaldson and Sean Mackie to push very high, which seemed to work early on and it was Donaldson and Mackie who combined to produce the game’s first opportunity.

Five minutes in and Mackie broke up the left and whipped a cross into the box and from 10 yards out Donaldson’s half-volley flew wide of the post.

Aberdeen began by playing a counter-attacking style of play, designed to catch out the advanced Hibernian wing-backs and on the fifteen minute mark their tactics paid off. A long ball into the right channel got Connor McLennan into the box and he managed to beat three defenders, round the goalie and stab home from six yards to put the Dons in front.

After this early goal for the Dons, Grant Murray changed his side’s formation to try and combat Aberdeen’s counter-attacking style. He changed to a more conventional 4-4-2 and Aberdeen couldn’t cope.

With the wing-backs now transformed to full-backs, it allowed more space on the wings for the Hibernian forwards to drift into and just after the half-hour mark the Hibees were level.

Some good work in the middle of the park lead to Fraser Murray, who had hit the cross bar only moments before, being played in on the right wing. He drove forward and looked to pick out Ollie Shaw in the middle of the box, however Murray’s cross was diverted into his own goal by Joe MacPherson.

Hibs continued to press the Aberdeen defence, however they never created any clear cut chances and both sides went into the break on level terms.

Grant Murray’s change of formation again looked like a masterstroke as in the second half Hibs blew away the Dons. They continued to look dangerous and created a couple of decent chances, with the best falling to Jamie Gullan.
Again the Hibs forwards were drifting in and out of the Aberdeen back line and Gullan, who was playing on the wing, found himself in the middle of the box. He controlled well and his deflected effort was stopped well by Dons goalie David Craddock.
Hibs didn’t have to wait long to take the lead though, and the goal came from centre midfielder Ben Stirling moving out wide. He collected the ball on the wing and put in a wonderful cross for Ryan Porteous, who bulleted the header into the back of the net.
Another key feature to Hibernian’s performance was the strike play of Ollie Shaw. He had the thankless task of running the channels and chasing long balls but did so very effectively and it was Shaw who was the architect of the third Hibs goal.
Shaw latched onto defender Waugh’s brilliant long ball and he composed himself to get a strike off, which was deflected into the path of Jamie Gullan who tapped the ball into the empty goal to put the game to bed for Hibernian.
Hibs managed to see out the remaining minutes of the game to lift the silverware and, in truth, it was all down to the tactical changes made by manager Grant Murray.
His decision to change from five at the back to 4-4-2 proved to be a game changer.  By playing a compact midfield, there was more space on the wings for the forwards to move into and this is where Hibs goals came from.
An excellent victory from Hibs who have now completed the domestic double of Development League and Youth Cup and they will be delighted with their season.
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