Hibee History: Early goals see off Saints

Colin Nish celebrates his opening goal with fellow scorer Merouane Zemmama
Colin Nish celebrates his opening goal with fellow scorer Merouane Zemmama
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Hibs maintained their push for third place and European football but had to overcome a stubborn Buddies side despite enjoying a terrific start to the game.

The Hibees got off to the perfect start with the opening goal coming after less than four minutes.

Visiting goalkeeper Chris Smith, under pressure from striker Steven Fletcher, succeeded in delivering his clearance straight to the feet of Colin Nish. The big striker needed no second invitation, steering a superb shot from 25 yards over the head of the stranded keeper and into the net.

Ninety seconds later. Hibs were two up. Ian Murray won the ball in midfield and set up Merouane Zemmama, who thundered home a stunning drive from 30 yards – a real a goal-of-the-season contender.

Having seen that ambitious effort work out, Zemmama then tried his luck with a free-kick from a similar range but this time Smith safely grabbed the ball under his bar.

Fletcher thought he had made it three for Hibs in the 12th minute as he got his head to Thierry Gathuessi’s cross only for assistant referee Tom Murphy to flag him offside.

Hibs had looked less than convincing at the back but they were able to quickly change into attack as Zemmama sped clear before presenting Nish with the chance to claim his second goal of the game. Smith. though. made up for his earlier error by superbly saving the shot.

A mix-up between Andy McNeil and Gathuessi, who clearly didn’t hear his goalkeeper’s shout as he came for a high ball, gave Andy Dorman a sight of the Hibs goal, but Chris Hogg was back to clear from the danger area.

While delighted with those two early goals, Hibs fans were becoming increasingly impatient with the Easter Road side’s failure to add to their advantage. Mixu Paatelainen’s players seemed happy to soak up whatever pressure came their way before trying to hit them on the counter attack.

Having triumphed twice against their hosts earlier in the season, St Mirren were well aware one goal would bring them right back into the match and Dorman went close with a long-range shot which McNeil carefully watched fly wide of the target.

The St Mirren midfield man then came closs again early in the second half when – looking suspiciously offside – he got in behind the home defence only to hammer a shot into the side-netting.

Former Hibs star Alan Reid went close to putting the game beyond the Paisley outfit in the 57th minute when he got his head to Zemmama’s corner only to see the ball crash off his own bar and then to safety.

McNeil put Abdel Zarabi in trouble with an ill-advised throw but redeemed himself seconds later, thrusting out his right hand to divert David Barron’s volley from Reid’s cross over the bar.

But Hibs continued to live on their nerves and McNeil kept them two ahead as he somehow stopped Will Haining’s header on his line and then threw himself acrobatically to touch away a piledriver from the defender.

The Easter Road crowd who were just happy to hear the final whistle with three important points secured and their dream of UEFA Cup football for the following season very much alive.

Hibs: McNeil, Gathuessi, Hogg, Canning, Zarabi, Zemmama, Murray, Rankin, Shiels, Fletcher, Nish