HIBS crashed to yet another defeat as Motherwell tightened their grip on second place in the SPL table.
Jamie Murphy’s goal was enough to win it for the Fir Park outfit but Sturat McCall’s side would have enjoyed a far greater margin of victory had it not been for a super show from Hibs goalkeeper Graham Stack who pulled off a string of terrific saves to keep his team-mates in the game.
Hibs got off to the worst possible start, conceding yet another soft and avoidable goal with only eight minutes on the clock. There may have been a hint of a foul throw from Motherwell but Tom Hateley was delivered a deep, hanging cross for Jamie Murphy to steal in behind Sean O’Hanlon to head home.
However, just how Murphy’s run was allowed to go unchecked was a topic of heated debate between Victor Palsson and Martin Scott, the Motherwell man having come in from his beat on the left with neither of the Hibs players operating on that area alive to his movement.
Hibs goalkeeper Graham Stack was forced to beat away a powerful shot from Steven Hammell as the Lanarkshire outfit continued to dominate and Colin Calderwood’s side could easily have found themselves well out of the game before the half-hour mark.
Stack just managed to claw away a glancing header from Michael Higdon before Keith Lasley got his head to Hammell’s cross only to see the ball crash back off the post with the Hibs goalkeeper helpless.
Little wonder, then, the boos were soon ringing round Easter Road, the Hibs support frustrated by a feckless performance although Junior Agogo did test Darren Randolph with a low shot which saw the Motherwell goalkeeper go down to his left to save although, in truth, he’d have been disappointed had he been beaten by that particular effort.
Little wonder, then, that Calderwood made a double substitution at the start of the second half, the introduction of David Wotherspoon and Danny Galbraith for Palsson and Scott resulting in Richie Towell switching from central midfield to right back while Ivan Sproule moved over from the left flank to the right.
Hibs certainly looked more cohesive thereafter with Agogo willingly dropping into midfield to good effect, the Ghana striker only inches away from a low Sproule cross as Randolph went down at his feet to grab the ball but the Fir Park side also continued to threaten, Nicky Law robbing Wotherspoon before sliding an inviting pass into the path of Michael Higdon.
The striker was left with only Stack to beat, but the goalkeeper spread himself superbly to save. Higdon drilled another shot just wide as Motherwell sought to get that killer second goal on the break and it almost came as Stephen Craigan got his head to Hammell’s 68th minute free-kick.
The former Northern Ireland defender thought he had scored but somehow Stack got down to his right to push the ball away - but only as far as Higdon who couldn’t believe his eyes as his effort took a deflection wide as it whizzed across the face of goal.
And he was out of luck from the resulting corner as his header beat Stack for once but clipped the top of the bar on its way over.
At the other end Randolph was relieved just to have pushed Wotherspoon’s powerful free-kick over the bar to prevent a Hibs equaliser but such a moment was looking increasingly unlikely.
Hibs: Stack, Palsson (Wotherspoon 46), O’Hanlon, Murray, Hanlon, Scott (Galbraith 46), Towell, Palsson, Osbourne (Griffiths 73), Sproule, Agogo, O’Connor. Subs not used: Brown, Stevenson, Stephens, Sodje.
Motherwell: Randolph, Hateley, Clancy, Craigan, Hammell, Humphrey (Daley 77), Jennings, Lasley, Law, Higdon, Murphy. Subs not used: Hollis, McHugh, Forbes. Page, Halsman, Carswell.
Referee: Euan Norris.