After Hibs’ 3-1 win over St Mirren on Saturday, Mark Atkinson takes a look at five key points from Saturday’s success at Easter Road.
Hibs got off to a fast start
We spoke about this last week, how Hibs needed to start games with more impetus and play with a higher tempo. On Saturday, they looked a team with purpose right from the off, quickly grabbing control of the midfield and pressing St Mirren back. The goal from Liam Henderson on nine minutes may have been a beautiful set-piece rather than a strike from open play, but it was a just reward for Hibs being far less ponderous in the opening stages than they have been in recent weeks.
Chris Dagnall looks a clever player
He may not have scored, but for the best part of an hour, Chris Dagnall was a total pest for St Mirren’s shoogly centre-back pairing of Andy Webster and Jack Baird. Constantly making darting runs, linking up play and going in behind the Saints rearguard, Dagnall did everything but score and was perhaps unfortunate that the best chances fell to his strike-partner Jason Cummings, who was surprisingly off-colour for once. Dagnall did enough though to show that he’s experienced, hard-working and will be a real handful for opposition defences. All he needs is a goal, but we reckon that will come soon enough.
Anthony Stokes is as sharp as ever
Anthony Stokes hadn’t played a competitive match since last August before Saturday, yet he appeared pretty sharp for the 20 minutes he was on the pitch. His first mark on the match was a delightful through-ball to Fraser Fyvie, wiping out the whole of the St Mirren defence with one pass, and it was unfortunate that Fyvie tripped when trying to score. He was unlucky to see one shot blocked on the line before he tapped in Hibs’ final goal late on. Not bad for a 20-minute cameo, and it’s clear he’s going to be a stand-out at this level. Alan Stubbs has got a hard decision in terms of who he picks for Saturday’s League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone.
Lewis Stevenson is in such good form
Little Lewis hasn’t been spoken about much, but he deserves mention as he’s been very, very good for weeks. Saturday, though, was as strong a performance we’ve seen from Stevenson this season. Boundless energy going forward, he defended tenaciously and even had a hand in Hibs’ third goal with a super pass to James Keatings. Hopefully we don’t jinx him, but he barely misses a minute for Hibs. He’s at the pinnacle of his game fitness and form-wise, and it’s not really a huge surprise that Stubbs hasn’t strengthened at left-back. Right now, he doesn’t need to.
It was good to see James Keatings shine in his five-minute cameo
Keatings has been a bit quiet lately. Things haven’t been falling for him and it was hardly a shock to see him benched for this match. What was pleasing, though, is that when he came on as a sub with five minutes to go, he was keen to get on the ball and extremely proactive. Often it’s easy for off-the-boil players to hide and not look for possession, but Keatings was the opposite, and his excellent run and then pass across goal for Stokes’ tap-in will have done him wonders. It was also good to see Henderson run towards Keatings straight away to celebrate the free-kick, showing just how much of a positive impact Keatings has in the dressing-room. The former Hearts man will no doubt be desperate to start when he returns to Tynecastle twice in eight days, first for the St Johnstone semi and then the Scottish Cup clash with the Jambos, and he’ll do his chances no harm if his form continues on an upwards trajectory.