Hibernian experience a disastrous European away night, suffering a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Swedish side Oesters. The Club also struggle to get going in the League campaign with a succesion of draws.
Wednesday 20th October 1976 saw Hibs paying in Europe once again with the opposition provided by Swedish Club Oesters. Swedish football was not at the standard of present day and few thought it would be a problem to get past the visitors thereby setting up the chance of playing against the likes of Feyenoord, AC Milan, Red Star Belgrade or Manchester United in the following round. On a cold and blustery night Hibs struck twice through John Blackley and a John Brownlie penalty, keeping that all important clean sheet at home. The match programme that night carried the sad news that former player Davie Shaw had sadly passed away and gave details of his playing career at Easter Road and, subsequently, Pittodrie where he also went on to be Manager.
Back in the SPL the following week, Hibernian travelled to Ayr for their eighth League fixture, still looking for their first win having managed only six draws and one defeat in the previous seven games. Somerset Park had a tight playing area and the home team was desperate to win the points. Things might have went their way had they managed to convert their second spot kick of the game but goalkeeper Mike McDonald saved brilliantly and Hibs eventually won 3-2 thanks to goals from Brownlie (pen), Smith and Arthur Duncan.
Just three days later Hibs were back in Ayrshire again to face a struggling Kilmarnock and managed only a 1-1 draw, with Des Bremner scoring the vital goal to share the points. Prior to the return leg of the UEFA tie in Sweden, Hibs had the little matter of a Derby match with Hearts to address and the Tynecastle outfit arrived in Leith still looking for their first SPL victory. They left still looking as Willie Paterson struck the goal in a 1-1 draw. The tragic news of the death of Willie Hamilton was contained in the match programme together with glowing references to his wonderful play for Hibs and the fact that he was amongst that relatively small group of players who had also played for Hearts.
The trip to Sweden should have seen Hibs hold out for a place in the next round draw but on a disastrous night for the Edinburgh Club, they were thrashed 4-1 with Ally Scott's goal meaning nothing as the defence capitulated resulting in a 3-4 aggregate defeat.
Things did not get any better in the following SPL match at Tannadice when a Bobby Smith goal was not enough in a 1-2 reversal, although many thought the visitors were worth a draw. Another break for International fixtures saw Hibernian welcome Stoke City to Easter Road for a friendly match and they arrived with a few very well known faces amongst their ranks, including Gordon Banks, Mike Pejic and Alan Hudson. It was a close game with the visitors winning 1-0.
Ibrox beckoned in the next fixture and Hibs were played off the park for the first half hour before taking control and ending up being very unlucky to gain only a 1-1 draw thanks to an own goal by Jim Steele. That point had Hibs sitting mid-table when a very strong and talented Motherwell side visited Easter Road, running out comfortable 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Bobby Graham and Willie Pettigrew. Not on the scoresheet for the Steelmen that day were two very familiar names - Peter Marinello and Jimmy O'Rourke! Interesting to note the Hibs top scorers at that point in the season were Ally Scott (9), John Brownlie (7), with Bobby Smith and Des Bremner tied (4).
The tough trip to Aberdeen followed and a 0-1 reverse was the reward for the long journey with a certain Joe Harper getting the goal. Following a fixture break, to allow for the playing of an International, Hibs next squared up to Partick Thistle at Firhill. They left with yet another draw when Graham Fyfe netted in response to Doug Somner's opener for the Jags. Fourth from bottom at this stage, it was the huge number of drawn games which were causing the problem - nine in fourteen starts so a Joe Filippi own goal was welcome as Hibs pipped lowly Ayr United in a drab game on Christmas Eve.
As the winter weather closed in football suffered a number of postponements including the Ne'er Day Derby, with the next fixture falling on 5th January with Dundee United the visitors to Easter Road. In those days, United had the offside trap down to a fine art with players like Andy Rolland, Frank Kopel, Paul Hegarty and David Narey guarding Hamish McAlpine in goal. Unsurprisingly, Hibs could not find a way through and a 0-0 draw was the outcome. The match programme contained some interesting adverts for companies famous then but now lost in the mists of time. Tom Martin was THE tailor to visit; Ronnie Simpson's sports shop in Rose Street offered the best in sporting equipment; Fairbairn's in Albert Street was the place to buy your wine and spirits whilst Bandparts in Antigua Street stocked all the latest pop records!
An away trip to Motherwell in early January provided Hibs with yet another draw as Jim O'Rourke's goal for the home side was countered by a strike from John Brownlie. It was reaching the stage where the pools companies were considering dropping Hibs games from their list because they were such a banker to draw!
A fortnight later, Hibs did it again when played their visitors off the park but still contrived only to draw 0-0 against Aberdeen who had arrived as League leaders and so a point was a decent outcome but a victory had been within their grasp. The good form displayed against a strong Dons outfit could not have materialised at a better time as the postponed fixture against Hearts was next on the agenda. Tynecastle was not an easy place to visit but Hibs left with both points as a wonderful strike by Ally MacLeod hit the back of the net to huge roars from the travelling support!
Written as part of the 'Another Generation' series