Craig Brown had a number of selection decisions to make. He opted to stick with the same back four - Robertson, Reynolds, Considine and McArdle. Russell Anderson was on the bench. In midfield he went for Clark, Hughes and Arnason and Jack with Fyvie on the bench. Up front the manager chose Fallon to partner Vernon and put Mackie on the bench in what was a straight 4-4-2 formation. The other two subs were Langfield and Magennis.
The Dons players entered the field to a wall of colour. The Aberdeen fans had been working hard before kick-off, and for weeks before, to create a fantastic Stand Free display as the team entered the park. After previous cup semi final experiences it was so important the Dons settled early and got off to a good start.
That did not happen.
Fallon picked out Clark with a great cross field pass which opened things up for the Dons but Chris failed to deliver the ball. Hibs broke forward, at no great pace. After a poor cross the ball held up and stayed in play inside the Dons box. The Dons defence did not react to the situation and eventually the ball was played back to Kujabi. He eventually had a chance to cross. Considine blocked the initial cross and then the full back had a second chance. He crossed to the near post area and O'Connor got to the ball ahead of Considine and beat Brown who had taken a step to the other side. It was a shocking goal to lose.
Like a recurring nightmare it all appeared to happen in slow motion and the Dons were shell shocked.
On 6 minutes Fallon flicked the ball on and Vernon did well to put pressure on the Hibs defender to win the corner. Clark's set piece was easily picked out of the air by Stack. Then on 10 minutes Hughes almost played in Fallon. The Dons were slowly coming back into it but worryingly Griffiths was looking a consistent danger. Hibs could now sit back and allow the quick striker to chase balls over the top. On 20 minutes we saw an example of this, Hibs broke, and Griffiths had a chance and just put it past the post.
The Dons looked really nervous. They just needed to get the ball down and take some touches to gain some confidence. With Fallon and Vernon up front too many players were taking the easy option of lofting high balls up to them. Stephen Hughes to be fair was the one player who was trying to get things going but the Dons players had gone into their shells.
Between the 20 minute and half hour mark the Dons were slowly coming more into it. Certainly enjoying some good possession but the final ball was not even close to being successful. The Red Army were getting very frustrated at this stage. Three minutes later the Dons launched an aerial bombardment, but the much criticised Hibs defence held firm. McPake at the back was marshalling his troops well. On 37 minutes Griffiths again picked the ball up in a good area. He ran at Considine before hitting a shot early and it just went past the post. On 39 minutes a good passing move from the Dons. Their best of the half. Cark and Arnason combined and they almost played in Vernon. Better stuff now from the Dons.
Just before the interval Aberdeen got another opportunity after Hibs gave the ball away. Vernon fought his way forward. The striker advanced as far as the edge of the box. He elected then to try a chip shot which went harmlessly over. At least it was an effort on goal. The Dons then almost got Hughes in the final play of the half. Although Aberdeen finished the half on top it had been a really poor opening 45 and the players left the field to a chorus of boos. After such a high profile build up they had not really turned up.
At half time Craig Brown had to change it. He decided to put Fraser Fyvie on for Ryan Jack. Fraser went to the left side of midfield and Chris Clark went over to the right. The Dons needed a quick start to get something going but that was thwarted by a long delay when Doherty went down with a face knock. The game was delayed for about four minutes while he received treatment.
When the game restarted, on 49 minutes Vernon won a free kick in a dangerous area. At last something for the Red Army to get excited about. Hughes played it in, Considine won the header but it was straight at Stack who held on. When you see it again it was a really good chance as the captain was unmarked about 8 yards out. At the other end O'Connor's shot was deflected and could have gone anywhere. Eventually the ball fell for full back Kujabi and his shot went just past Brown's near post.
On 53 minutes Clark put in a really good deep hanging cross. Fyvie went for the spectacular with a volley; he might have been better cushioning it down for Vernon as Arild Stavrum had done in the 2000 semi. Still Fyvie was making a massive difference. His energy had brought Aberdeen to life. The Dons were finally putting some pressure on the Hibs defence. Fallon and Vernon linked up; Vernon beat a couple of players and tried to get a shot away. He eventually gave up and played it to Hughes who picked out Fyvie. He got to the by-line but his cross was intercepted by Stack.
Aberdeen had built a head of steam now. The ball was played to the back post to Fallon. The striker went up for the header and looked the favourite to win it but McPake defended the situation well. From the corner Considine and Fallon got in each other's way, but it was all Aberdeen at this stage.
The onslaught continued as Clark's cross was put behind for a corner. A better delivery by Fyvie, which the keeper just managed to punch clear. On 58 minutes Reynolds did really well on the half way line after initially losing the ball to O'Connor. He played it forward. It was a cleverly weighted pass which the Hibs defender McPake could only head up in the air. Rory Fallon picked it up. He chested it before volleying the ball and it sailed over the head of Stack into the top left hand corner. What a goal! There have been few better scored at the new national. As soon as it left his foot you knew where it was going.
The Red Army were now in full voice.
On 63 minutes Fyvie picked the ball up on the edge of the box. He tried to curl it into the top hand corner. Just like big Eck in the 82 final! Not quite enough curl on it though with Stack struggling to get across to it. The Dons midfield was beginning to get well on top. Fyvie should probably have been on from the start. Even from left midfield he was looking the best player on the park at this stage.
Both teams then made substitutions. Chris Clark went off and Darren Mackie came on. Mackie went over to the left in a straight swap. Hibs took off Jorge Claros Juarez and put on Wotherspoon. Then on 70 minutes Hibs had to make another change when keeper Stack pulled his hamstring after making a routine clearance. He was replaced by Mark Brown. Always really difficult for a keeper to go in to a situation like this when he has been sitting in the stand for three quarters of the game.
Aberdeen were in control but Hibs were still dangerous on the break. On 72 minutes O'Connor should have done better when some space was created for him.
McArdle played a good long ball in behind Kujabi. Mackie did well to win the ball, he cut inside and was right to try a shot but his left footed effort was easy for Brown. Then Mackie broke through with the options either side of him. He picked the wrong option but the ball broke off a Hibs defender and almost fell to Fallon. Brown was alert and came off his line to grasp the ball. Frustratingly for the Dons the Hibs defence had not had enough pressure put on it over the whole game. The full back Kujabi was not tested enough. He was okay going forward but questionable in defence. It was also very frustrating that Brown was not tested at all.
With 10 minutes to go the game started to get a bit nervy again. Both teams knew a mistake at this stage would be fatal. On 80 minutes Griffiths and O'Connor linked up well with a clever one two on the half way line. Griffiths ran in on goal and from a tight angle fired in a shot which almost squeezed past Brown at the near post. On 81 minutes Mackie was booked for taking down Sproule. The first yellow card of the game. TV replays showed that the striker had actually won the ball. Hibs put on a bit of pressure for a few minutes but the Dons dealt well with it.
Then on 84 minutes disaster. Hibs regained the lead. From nothing O'Connor played a great ball to Griffiths. The ball dissected Reynolds and Robertson. The striker had the composure to beat Brown, who tried to get out to narrow the angle but was not quick enough.
The Dons had it all to do and with little time to do it.
On 86 minutes, what turned out to be the closest they came to getting an equaliser, Arnason shot just over from about 30 yards. If he had hit the target Brown would have got nowhere near it. Two minutes later there were claims for hand ball inside the box from the Aberdeen players. Half hearted appeals though. The fourth official held up the board indicting there would be 5 minutes of injury time. There should have been more, but it momentarily gave the Dons a lift.
During those five minutes the Dons did not really look like creating anything. A weak header from Vernon was really the only effort of note.
Another deeply depressing afternoon at Hampden.