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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 21:43 GMT
Kilmarnock 0-2 Hibernian
Ivan Sproule puts Hibernian ahead at Kilmarnock
Sproule lashes home to put Hibs ahead at Rugby Park
Ivan Sproule and Steven Fletcher grabbed the goals as a youthful Hibs side edged out 10-man Kilmarnock.

In a scrappy game which saw few chances created by either side, Kilmarnock came closest with Gary Wales' early shot rebounding off the Hibernian post.

Dean Shiels wasted two glorious first-half opportunities for Hibs, blazing one over from just six yards.

But it was left to substitute Sproule and Fletcher to claim all three points with clinical second-half strikes.

In a tepid start to the match, Hibs forced a couple of early corners but the Ayrshire men defended stoutly, with defender Frazer Wright coping well with the aerial presence of Hibs' giant stopper Rob Jones.

Killie debutant Momo Sylla was finding space down the left in the opening minutes but his hopeful crosses were easily mopped up by the visiting defence.

Despite Hibs having the lion's share of the early possession it was Kilmarnock who nearly broke the deadlock after 20 minutes.

Striker Wales hammered a shot from 25 yards against the post with Hibs keeper Andrew McNeil grateful to see the ball rebound straight back into his arms.

This spurred Killie on to press for the opener as a much-changed Easter Road side, with five 19-year-olds in the starting line-up, struggled to get their passing game together.

The game remained scrappy but Hibs midfielder Shiels should have grabbed his ninth goal of the season five minutes before the break.

Jones was allowed to latch onto a David Murphy free-kick and head the ball into a packed penalty area.

Shiels pounced as the Killie defence hesitated but lashed his right-footed shot high over the bar from six yards.

Gary Hay's misdirected back-header to keeper Alan Combe nearly cost Killie dearly on the stroke of half-time but Shiels again scooped the ball over the onrushing Combe.

Hibs' boss John Collins made two changes to his inexperienced side at half-time, teenage striker Ross Campbell making way for Guillaume Beuzelin and Sproule replacing the below-par Kevin Thomson.

The substitutions paid off almost instantly with Sproule firing Hibs into the lead after 51 minutes.

After a fluid four-man move down the left Beuzelin laid the ball off to the little Irish winger 20 yards out and, as the home defence backed off, he rifled a shot high beyond the flailing Combe.

Kilmarnock became increasingly ragged as Hibs' confidence grew and Fletcher almost doubled the lead minutes later, heading just wide from a Lewis Stevenson cross with Combe stranded in no-man's land.

Sproule's direct running down the right flank continued to create havoc in the Killie defence and he forced Combe into a good save on the hour mark, Fletcher slamming the rebound over.

Steven Whittaker came on for Shiels as Hibs attempted to consolidate control of the midfield.

Killie were dramatically reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes to go when Wales picked up a second yellow card, catching Whittaker with a mistimed lunge.

And Fletcher sealed the win for Hibs with a cool finish three minutes from time after Stevenson's mazy run down the left.

The result gave Hibernian their first win at Rugby Park for three years and brought them within a point of fourth-placed Hearts in the SPL table.


Kilmarnock: Combe, Grant Murray, Hay, Frazer Wright, Ford, Fowler, Naismith, Johnston (Leven 79), Syila (Stephen Murray 65), Invincibile (Nish 52), Wales.
Subs Not Used: Smith, Dodds, Adams, Campbell.

Sent Off: Wales (75).

Booked: Naismith, Wales, Nish.

Hibernian: McNeil, McCann, Murphy, Jones, Fletcher, Campbell (Beuzelin 46), Scott Brown, Thomson (Sproule 46), Hogg, Shiels (Whittaker 66), Stevenson.
Subs Not Used: Simon Brown, Martis, Glass, Benjelloun.

Booked: Jones, Murphy, Stevenson, Scott Brown, McCann.

Goals: Sproule 51, Fletcher 87.

Att: 4,963.

Ref: C Richmond (Scotland).

SEE ALSO
Collins gets kicks from teenagers
15 Jan 07 |  Hibernian
Jefferies bemoans unlucky Killie
16 Jan 07 |  Kilmarnock


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