Airdrie..................... 2


(Aggregate: 2-5)HIBERNIAN retained their premier division status by beating Airdrie 4-2 at Broadwood last night in a match in which they managed to fall apart a little less than the home side.

With eight bookings - five for Airdrie and three for Hibs - as well as the ordering-off of the home team's captain, Jimmy Sandison, the players maintained the brutality of the first leg, the difference was Hibernian held their nerve when fortune went against them, while Airdrie's courage disappeared.

In the end, a 5-2 aggregate scoreline is emphatic enough, if a little flattering for Hibernian. For Airdrie it did not need to be this way.

It was a tale of two penalties, one missed by Airdrie's Steve Cooper when his side were leading 1-0, another scored by Darren Jackson when Hibs looked far from capable of a goal. On such things do places in the premier division turn.

Hibs managed to hold on to their hard-earned one-goal lead from the first leg for a frivolous 90 seconds.

Jamie McQuilken found Forbes Johnston with a clearance and the Airdrie man crossed into the box. Jim Leighton came for the ball and seemed capable of controlling it until his own defender, John Hughes, headed it out of his hands.

That left Paddy Connolly to hit the ball into the net and Airdrie were on level terms in this tie earlier than they could ever have hoped.

This was billed as a battle for survival and the players certainly resorted to the most basic of instincts. This was 'thump it wide, lump it high' football.

What subtlety there was came from either Darren Jackson, of Hibs, or Connolly, of Airdrie. Indeed, Jackson conjured Hibs' only first-half chance after 10 minutes with a good cross upon which Lee Power could not get enough purchase.

But, in truth, both sides looked more like scoring when the opposition had the ball.

Airdrie could have taken a lead in this tie which Hibs did not look capable of clawing back in the first half. After 34 minutes the visitors gave the ball away again and when Johnston hit a left-foot shot from 20 yards it struck Brian Welsh's hand and referee Willie Young awarded a penalty.

Steve Cooper came up to take it. For him this was a chance of redemption, for it was his own goal which gave Hibs victory at Easter Road on Saturday. But when he lashed the ball yards over the bar almost to the rear seat of the stand, he seemed as far away from salvation as the ball was from going into the net. The confidence in Airdrie legs visibly seeped away.

Cooper's condition worsened just after the break, when Airdrie lost their first-half lead even more quickly than Hibs had lost their first leg advantage.

After only 22 seconds of the second period referee Young awarded Hibs a penalty. Dow had played a through ball to McGinlay just inside the penalty area and he was tugged back by Airdrie captain Jimmy Sandison. A soft foul, but without question a penalty.

Jackson gave an example of how just such an award should be taken and equalised for Hibs with a neatly placed kick.

Midway through the second half Hibs were awarded another penalty. Brian Grant and Davies contested a Tosh cross and it appeared the Airdrie man handled the ball.

There was no protest when the penalty was given, and Jackson dispatched the ball into the net as clinically as he had the first one.

Four minutes later Airdrie knew they were staying in the first division. Grant played the ball through to Tosh in space breaking from the halfway line. He ran into the Airdrie area and though his first effort was parried by Rhodes, the rebound fell kindly for him and he placed the ball in the net.

Airdrie captain, Sandison, realising he would not be seeing McGinlay's face in the premier division, left his mark on it with his elbow. It was a needless sending off, but a deserved one, when he was shown the red card.

Pride was another thing lost as Hibs scored a flattering fourth goal. Jackson swung in a neat cross and Keith Wright, who had come on for McGinlay, rose unchallenged to head into the net.

It looked as though Airdrie had given up and Hibs were left to celebrate with relief.

With just two minutes left Hughes handled a Connelly cross and Black stepped up to score Airdrie's consolation - if there could be one.

Airdrie - Rhodes, Stewart, Jack, Sandison, Sweeney, Black, Johnston, McKay, Cooper, Davies, Connolly. Substitutes - Smith, Lawrence, McPhee.

Hibernian - Leighton, Renwick, McQuilken, Grant, Hughes, Welsh, Tosh, Dow, Power, Jackson, McGinlay. Substitutes - Lavety, Wright, Harper.

Referee - W Young (Clarkston).