John Collins’ men tore apart a St Mirren side that flattered to deceive before being comprehensively derailed with a five-goal thumping at Easter Road.
This victory was a perfect Christmas present for the Hibees support, the victory moving them up to fifth place and just a point behind Hearts ahead of a Boxing Day derby at Tynecastle.
Midfielder Scott Brown wasn’t present in the Hibs squad after a joint £3million bid for him and Kevin Thomson from Charlton Athletic was rejected in the lead up to this fixture.
Thomson too sat out this match as he was suspended, while Brown’s absence was put down to a training ground injury.
Saints started brightly, pinging the ball around crisply on an excellent playing surface, but Hibs soon began to have a say in proceedings with striker Steven Fletcher, set up beautifully by Shelton Martis, missing the target when well placed.
With stand-in skipper Rob Jones towering in defence, and Michael Stewart the fulcrum in midfield, Hibs dominated the opening quarter, while the Buddies’ cause was not helped when striker Billy Mehmet was forced off with injury after just 12 minutes.
The next passage of play saw a string of corners for Hibs from both left and right. They almost capitalised when Tony Bullock clawed Merouane Zemmama’s delivery and Stewart’s volley scraped the bar on its way into a silent, subdued St Mirren contingent behind the goal.
Hibs’ pressure eventually paid off in the 20th minute when, from yet another Zemmama corner on the left, Saints could only clear the ball as far as David Murphy whose intelligent interplay with Fletcher and Chris Killen saw Guillaume Beuzelin slot the ball home from the Kiwi’s cutback. Such was Hibs’ superiority that another goal was inevitable and it came courtesy of a forceful run by Dean Shiels deep into the Saints box before releasing an inch-perfect pass which Killen gratefully accepted in his stride before clipping the ball home.
Five minutes before the interval, St Mirren grabbed a goal of their own with John Sutton holding the ball up, before turning and stroking the ball beyond Zibi Malkowski to put Saints back in it.
Despite having their lead halved, it was the home side that settled first after the interval, midfielder Stewart not only providing the guile but also the bite in midfield, aided and abetted by pocket dynamo Zemmama.
Hibs restored their two-goal cushion after 58 minutes. Killen was released through the centre forward channel, dragging the ball wide to inside left before unleashing a low shot which keeper Bullock did well to save with his legs, but, when the ball ricocheted to Shiels, the youngster coolly slid the ball home from the edge of the box.
Seven minutes later and the match was all over bar the shouting and there was much of that from the Easter Road faithful, a delightful fourth goal coming, appropriately, from the instrumental Zemmama, who finished clinically from 12 yards out from Beuzelin’s pinpoint cutback.
Shiels was then substituted to a standing ovation, and, 17 minutes from time, Hibs made it five when a neat pass from Zemmama split the Saints defence for substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun to drill the ball beyond Bullock.
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Martis, Jones, Beuzelin, Stewart, Zemmama, Shiels, Fletcher, Killen.