A disappointing second half of the season witnesses Hibernian finishing mid-table and exiting the Scottish Cup to Arbroath.
The third round of the 1977 Scottish Cup paired Hibs with SPL opposition in the form of Partick Thistle who visited Easter Road boasting Alan Rough, Alan Hansen and Doug Somner in their ranks but left with their tails between their legs as the home side hammered them 3-0 with goals from Smith, MacLeod and Bremner. The draw was made and Hibs pulled Arbroath away - a kindly break and one which brought forth the annual question from long suffering Hibs fans - could this be the year?
More SPL fixtures awaited ahead of that Cup fixture and a visit to Parkhead saw Hibs score twice through Smith and MacLeod but sadly they lost four in reply and left empty handed. Three more SPL games fell due to be played before the visit to Arbroath and the first was away to Kilmarnock who were anchored at the bottom of the League. An Ally MacLeod strike won the points and Hibs travelled home happy that day, ready to face the might of Glasgow Rangers in the midweek at Easter Road.
The Ibrox Club were a big physical side and the match was a tough one which Referee Muirhead did well to control. Rangers boasted one Alex Miller amongst their number but neither he nor any of his team mates could score on the day. Sadly, no Hibs player scored either and yet another draw was recorded in the statistics.
A quick return by Partick Thistle saw them arrive on SPL duty and fare somewhat better than on their last trip by securing a 1-1 draw with the versatile, play anywhere, Bobby Smith scoring for the Hibees.
At last the eagerly awaited trip to Arbroath had arrived and in true Hibernian fashion the game went anything but according to plan as Hibs had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal from the unlikely source of John Blackley! Due to weather causing postponements the next game Hibernian played was the Easter Road replay when the Angus side shocked Scottish football to its roots by winning 2-1. Ally MacLeod had scored for Hibs following a string of missed chances by various players but the visitors stunned the home support with goals from Tommy Yule (who had scored in the first game) and John Fletcher to add another year of waiting for the Easter Road faithful.
Into March and Hibs were out of both Cups and sitting only mid-table in the SPL. Ayr United at Somerset presented the next challenge and the greens made very heavy weather of beating them 2-1 with goals from Arthur Duncan and Tony Higgins. Killie were next at Easter Road and Hibs seemed to have finally found their winning ways, as they disposed of the bottom Club 2-0 thanks to goals from Bobby Smith and Ally MacLeod.
Three wins in a row would have been nice but it was not to be as Dundee United scraped home by the only goal of the game at Tannadice with Paul Hegarty doing the business. Hibs were not alone in Edinburgh in having a poorish season and when Hearts arrived on 23rd March they were third bottom of the SPL with just twenty points from twenty six starts. Come twenty to five that day they were still on the same points total as Hibs swarmed all over them and ran out 3-1 winners with the goals coming from that man MacLeod, Ally Scott and Bobby Smith.
Consistency was the problem with this Hibs side and that was highlighted in the next game which saw Motherwell visiting Easter Road and leaving with the points in a 2-1 win, thanks to a double strike by the deadly Willie Pettigrew. The consistency problem alluded to really revolved around taking the chances presented as Hibs had scorned a hatful of them against the Lanarkshire side and paid the penalty by losing.
Whenever Celtic visit Easter Road you are pretty sure to see a decent game of football and that's exactly what happened on 30 March 1977. In a cracking match played in front of a bumper crowd Ally MacLeod scored for Hibs and Ronnie Glavin for Celtic who had two ex Hibs and one ex Rangers players in their ranks - Roy Baines, Pat Stanton and Alfie Conn. Postponements meant that Hibs next faced Rangers at Ibrox and the Easter Road side was very unlucky in going down 2-1 with Bobby Smith's strike getting no reward as the Glasgow side scored through Derek Parlane and Derek Johnstone.
It was a tough finish to the League programme and the visit of high flying Aberdeen didn't make things any easier. Hibs managed a very creditable 0-0 draw before next visiting Tynecastle and, you've guessed it, drawing 2-2 with Hearts thanks to a brace from Des Bremner.
Somewhat bizarrely Hibs faced Celtic at Easter Road again in their next SPL match and on this occasion the Glasgow side did just enough to win the points by the only goal of the game. A home game against Ayr United saw the visitors desperate to get something from the game as they fought out a battle with Hearts to determine which side would join the doomed Kilmarnock in the drop. Goals from Ally Scott and Des Bremner won the points for Hibs and Ayr breated a sigh of relief in realising that Hearts could no longer catch them and so would be playing their football in the First Division in season 1977/78.
The season was all but over, although Hibs still had to visit Partick Thistle for the last game of the season and disappointingly they lost 0-1 to finish sixth in the table whilst their hosts claimed fifth.
After finishing third the season before this had been a disappointing campaign, overshadowed by the departure of Club legend Pat Stanton to Celtic and the shocking Scottish Cup defeat by lowly Arbroath. On the plus side, Ally MacLeod had excelled with 12 goals as top scorer, trailed by Ally Scott (11) and Bobby Smith (10). The League was won by Celtic, finishing nine points ahead of Rangers whilst Kilmarnock and Hearts were relegated - being replaced in the following season by St. Mirren and Clydebank. Things could only get better it seemed and it could be argued that they did as Hibs managed to finish in fourth spot the following season, one point ahead of Celtic!
Written as part of the 'Another Generation' series