Bobby Williamson secured a vital home win for Hibs against the team he formerly managed as the Easter Road side pulled themselves off the bottom of the table.
It was an afternoon when Williamson’s men not only enjoyed a comfortable victory to lift them off the bottom of the league, but also served notice, in the outstanding showings of Ian Murray and Tam McManus that their future aims should extend far beyond simply avoiding relegation or dwelling in the twilight zone.
In its entirety, the tussle was a curious mish-mash of grisly strength and infrequent glimpses of precious skill. But any nerves harboured by Hibs were swiftly expunged with a brace of gift-wrapped goals against adversaries who were lethargic, lacklustre and terribly out of sorts. There was scant indication of what lay in store when Killie manager Jim Jefferies declared his attacking intentions by deploying a 3-4-3 formation, plumping for the mercurial Jose Quitongo, alongside Gary McSwegan and Kris Boyd in an obvious ploy to penetrate the recent leaky fortification of the Capital side.
Kilmarnock looked powder-puff, and it was hardly surprising that Hibs should start to profit on the lavish space in the midfield area.
Paco Luna, in particular, thrived on the opportunity to sprint at defenders, the erratic Spaniard showing his ability to pierce the soft underbelly of opponents, and the consequence was that the hosts’ early caution was replaced by a series of aggressive forays which saw them sweep into a two-goal advantage after just 13 minutes.
They lost the plot in the ninth minute when Gary Smith delivered a dangerous free kick into Kilmarnock’s penalty box, whereupon Luna fed on to Murray, who, despite catching his shot poorly, found Gordon Marshall leaden-footed as the ball trickled into his net.
Jefferies, meanwhile, looked on aghast at the dismal tracking back of his personnel. That was bad enough for the veteran keeper, but he could at least attach blame to those in front of him.
The same, alas, was not applicable when Luna sent McManus clear and the latter’s innocuous attempt was allowed to meander past Marshall’s sluggish resistance.
Kilmarnock attempted to force their way back into the encounter after the interval and should have got a goal back. Indeed, they would rapidly have reduced the deficit, but for a couple of marvellous saves from Nick Colgan, who leapt athletically to defy Alan Mahood and then responded imperiously in thwarting Barry McLaughlin.
This double salvage job from the Irishman bore ample testimony to his powers of concentration and athleticism, and although Kilmarnock pressed on, gradually earning more territory and possession, there was a dearth of belief to their approach.
In which light, it was irrelevant when McManus was replaced by Garry O’Connor, and Jefferies strove to orchestrate a belated recovery by bringing on Ally Mitchell and Garry Hay for Mahood and Gary Locke. On the contrary, despite glimmers for Boyd and Freddie Dindeleux, one never really felt they would drag anything out of this affair following Marshall’s unforced errors, and the comparisons between him and Colgan, who was once again masterful in parrying James Fowler’s shot at the death, could not have been more glaring.