Paul Hanlon and Eoin Doyle claimed their first goals of the season as Hibs followed up their victory over St Mirren with another win against St Johnstone.
Manager Pat Fenlon, though, would have been less than happy with his side’s first half performance which allowed the Perth club to dominate only to be stunned seconds before the interval as Hanlon rose to meet Leigh Griffiths’ corner. Callum Davidson made an acrobatic effort to stop it and although he reached the ball, assistant referee Alasdair Ross signalled it had, in fact, crossed the line.
Doyle doubled Hibs lead six minutes into the second half, stabbing the ball home after his initial effort had been stopped by Saints goalkeeper Alan Mannus.
In the end it was a reasonably comfortable victory for the Capital outfit but Saints would have left for home cursing two bad misses from striker Gregory Tade, the first with the game still goal-less.
Unsurprisingly Hibs boss Pat Fenlon went with the side which had started against St Mirren with his latest signing Shefki Kuqi again on the bench. Saints were able to recall Gregory Tade and Rowan Vine following suspension while Murray Davidson made the team having shrugged off the knee injury which had been troubling him during the week.
Hibs made a dreadfully slow start to the match as they allowed the Perth outfit to sieze a grip of the match which led to them dominating the first half hour and more of play.
Paul Hanlon had to stick out a boot to divert a Liam Craig shot wide after the midfielder’s free-kick had crashed back off the defensive wall and the Scotland Under-21 skipper made another telling intervention moments later to avert danger after Tim Clancy had been caught in possession.
The Easter Road side were finding it virtually impossible to break out of their own territory as they were hounded and harrassed by their opponents who were simply preventing them settle on the ball.
Tade should have given Steve Lomas’ side the lead in the 22 minutes when Rowan Vine’s pass left him with time and space within the Hibs penalty area but French striker hesitated before pulling the trigger and that was all the time James McPake needed to slide in with a goal-saving challenge.
For all Saints’ possession, though, Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams found himself untroubled, easily taking the onnly direct effort on goal from Vine comfortably into his chest after 34 minutes.
But having been decidedly second best, Hibs hit Saints with the classic sucker punch on the stroke of half-time. Griffiths delivered a corner from the right after David Wotherspoon’s effort had been deflected leaving Hanlon to power in to meet his cross. The defender headed the ball down into the turf but towards goal where Callum Davidson attempted a spectacular goal-line clearance. He succeeded n getting the ball clear but not before assistant referee Alasdair Ross signalled it had crossed the line.
Hanlon’s goal stunned Saints and only a great block from Frazer Wright prevented Paul Cairney making it two for Hibs five minutes after the restart but it mattered little as Doyle claimed his first goal of the season 60 seconds later. Gary Deegan found Griffiths in space to the right of Alan Mannus’ goal, the forward hitting the bye-line before cutting the ball back for Doyle.
Mannus did superbly to save his shot but the Irishman reacted in an instant to stab the rebound home from a couple of yards out.
Tade, however, should have reduced the leeway in the 63rd minute as McPake slipped and missed Murray Davidson’s high, hanging ball forward again leaving the Saints frontman with only Williams to beat. But once more the challenge proved too great, Williams getting down low to block his shot.
Hibs: Williams, Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Maybury, Wotherspoon, Claros, Deegan, Cairney, Griffiths (Kuqi 87), Doyle (Caldwell 87). Subs not used: Antell, Booth, O’Hanlon, Sproule, Handling.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Wright, Anderson. C Davidson, Craig, Cregg (Pawlett 56), M Davidson, Vine, Hasselbaink (Higgins 69), Tade (May 81). Subs not used: Tuffey, Adams, Miller, Caddis.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.