Hibs ended a run of two defeats as they got back to winning ways at home to St Johnstone thanks to goals from their predatory front men Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan.
Stokes, brought in by Hibs boss John Hughes from Sunderland in the summer, had flattered to deceive up until this encounter at Easter Road, but his two goals certainly left an impression.
Prior to opening the scoring in the 21st minute, St Johnstone had looked the better side and squandered three early chances. When Hibs extended their lead to two ten minutes before half-time, through Riordan, it was always going to be a long way back for the visitors.
Mercurial did not begin to describe Hibs’ front pairing of Stokes and Riordan – two players who had youth on their side and devils on their shoulders. They did little in this match apart from aiding their side to all three points with expertly-taken strikes.
Midfielder Liam Miller was handed a first start as Hibs sought to bounce back after two successive defeats. The greatest pressure, though, was heaped on the shoulders of Stokes following a pair of unconvincing outings, and a report leading up to the match which placed him at the centre of an alleged lively nightclub incident the week before. It can’t have encouraged the Hibs supporters to cut him some slack, and the home fans were further deflated as they watched St Johnstone lay siege on Graham Stack’s goal in the opening minutes.
They could have been thee goals ahead in the opening ten minutes. Martin Hardie saw his firm shot, after a penalty box scrum, bash back off the bar, while Collin Samuel just failed to connect with a fine cross from the left by Liam Craig. Craig himself also passed up a chance to score with a header.
Stokes’ wasn’t exactly lively in the early exchanges, but then the mark of a good striker is taking a chance when it arrives. Indeed, Stokes fashioned the chance for himself, since there appeared little likelihood of anything being on for the Irishman when he controlled a long ball forward on his knee, and with his back to goal. But with St Johnstone central defenders Graham Gartland and Stuart McCaffrey standing off him on the edge of the box, Stokes swivelled and sent a powerful left-foot drive past Alan Main into the corner of the net for his first goal in green.
Riordan, too, was in the dog-house after missing a penalty in the defeat at Hamilton seven days ago. But he won back some favour with a goal that in many ways mirrored Stokes’ opener. He pounced on a rebound following a shot from David Wotherspoon that had been charged down. His shot, also low and hard, beat Main at his left-hand post from 20 yards.
Saints had chances to stage a comeback after the break, though the sizeable task became an impossible one in the 72nd minute. Daniel Galbraith was crudely felled by Gartland, and Stokes took advantage of Main’s suspect positioning to curl the set-piece into the net.
Hibs: Stack, McCormack, Murray, Bamba, Hanlon, Rankin, McBride, Miller, Wotherspoon, Riordan, Stokes