Khan strikes late to end Hibs’ resistance


Racing Club progressed to the quarter-final of the Les James Challenge Cup with a hard-fought victory at their Hampton Road neighbours.

The visitors created the better of the chances, with Paul Wilkinson guilty of wasting a couple of gilt-edged opportunities either side of his 37th-minute opener and they had to wait until the 90th minute before confirming their passage courtesy of Adam Khan’s scuffed strike.

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The first clear-cut chance fell to Hibs in the ninth minute, with Cole Stephens showing excellent touch to bring down a through ball and then dink it over Racing Club keeper Kev Tobin. However, the ball hit the angle of post and bar and was scrambled away.

Adam Spalding screwed a shot across the face of goal for Racing, while Marion Gebauer had to be alert to parry a fierce drive from Jamie Vadasz as the Midland Combination Premier side took control.

The visitors should have opened the scoring just short of the half-hour mark following an excellent piece of skill from Wilkinson. But having produced a neat turn inside the box and feigned to shoot, committing both the last defender and Gebauer, Wilkinson then placed his shot tamely into the midriff of the prone keeper.

Wilkinson made amends shortly after when he latched on to a poor clearance and beat his marker before drilling home to put Tony Clarke’s side 1-0 up.

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Hibs looked to respond immediately but Andy Yeates shot straight at Tobin after a neat move down the left.

Five minutes before the break, Wilkinson should have doubled his, and Racing Club’s tally after beating the offside trap, but with only team-mate Ben Purser for company, he delayed his shot too long and Mike Yates was able to get back to produce a fine goal-saving block.

Luke Swinnerton chipped over when well placed and Racing Club needed a fine save from Tobin to preserve their lead into the break after Callum Yeates cross-cum shot looked to be heading for the top corner.

Racing Club remained in the ascendancy after the break, with Stuart Herlihy’s measured side-foot going inches past the post and Purser taking one touch too many after looking clean through on goal.

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Substitute Khan brought out a comfortable save from Gebauer with only his second touch, while Tom Cooper headed over from a corner.

However, with the deficit only at one goal, Hibs sensed a way back into the encounter and Stephens was unlucky to see his shot drift across the face of goal.

As play became stretched, Gebauer was called upon to save from Mark Briggs and Wilkinson, while at the other end, Yeates dragged his shot wide after Racing Club failed to clear their lines.

The match was finally put to bed in the 90th minute, with Khan latching on to a Spalding cross and finding the right-hand corner of Gebauer’s goal, despite failing to get the best of connections.

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There was still time for Hibs to grab a consolation but, with only the keeper to beat, substitute Joe Yeates skied his effort.

Hibs’ player-coach Rich Kay refused to be downbeat despite the defeat, saying his young side would learn from the experience.

“Everything I asked for before the game - workrate, commitment, and team spirit - was there from start to finish,” said Kay.

“It’s just over a year since I came into the club and the transformation in the first team set-up is staggering.

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“The players are running through brick walls for me and Paddy Farrell and although we lost the game it was a massive step forward in the development of our young players.”

Kay said there was little between the sides despite the two-division gulf, but his assessment was disputed by Racing Club boss Clarke.

“I counted 17 clear-cut chances to us and if we’d taken our opportunites we would have battered them,” he said.

“But it doesn’t matter if it’s 1-0 or 8-0 as long as you make it through to the next round.”

Racing Club return to Midland Combination Premier Division action tomorrow with a trip to Littleton, while Hibs are at Alcester Town in the Challenge Vase.

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