Hibs 2 Ross County 1: Stanton and Taiwo secure win

Danny Haynes on the ball. Pic: Greg Macvean
Danny Haynes on the ball. Pic: Greg Macvean
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Hibs ended a run of five winless matches by making it a hat-trick of victories over Ross County.

First half goals from Sam Stanton and Tom Taiwo appeared to have the Easter Road outfit on easy street but a stunning free-kick from County midfielder Richard Brittain hauled the Dingwall side back into the match.

But Hibs held out, surviving a last-minute scare when Staggies defender Erik Cikos hooked the ball over from only six yards out.

Hibs were dealt a blow before kick-off when on-loan Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore failed to shake off the foot injury he picked up during his impressive debut against Raith Rovers seven days ago.

Ryan McGivern, however, returned at left back following his hamstring problem, boss Terry Butcher making three changes to the side which crashed out of the Scottish Cup with Danny Haynes and Danny Handling in the starting X1, James Collins dropping to the bench while club skipper Liam Craig missed out due to a one-match ban.

In Craig’s absence Michael Nelson took the captain’s armband while Paul Grant continued as back-up goalkeeper to Ben Williams with Sean Murdoch continuing to nurse a shoulder injury.

Ross County had former Hibs star Mark Brown back in goal with Michael Fraser sidelined following an appendix operation.

It took Hibs just nine minutes to get in front, Stanton’s enterprising run halted by Rocco Quinn’s foul 25 yards from goal. Stanton picked himself up, took responsibility himself for the free-kick, and curled a superb left-foot shot beyond Brown.

Haynes almost made it two on the quarter-hour mark, his shot from a tight angle catching the arm of Brown at his near post only for the ball to spin to safety.

Butcher would have been happy with the start his side had made but they had a lucky escape in the 22nd minute when Brittain’s cross took a wicked deflection off McGivern, the balal spiralling up towards Williams’ near post where Jordan Slew managed to get his head to it, sending the ball over the goalkeeper and off the face of the cross bar.

But Hibs made the most of that moment, breaking from their own penalty area with Haynes taking the ball to the County bye-line before cutting it back. It fell behind Handling but there was Taiwo with time to control the ball before stabbing it home from ten yards out.

Despite Hibs dominance, the pace and movement of Slew and Yoann Arquin were obvious threats for the home side, Slew ghosting past Nelson only to see his shot blocked by Paul Hanlon as Butcher’s side aimed to clock up their first clean sheet since the end of December, Williams playing his part as he got down to get his body behind MIchael Tidser’s powerful shot.

Couinty were cranking it up as half-time approached and Williams again did well to beat away a thumping drive from Slew.

Graham Carey had two half-chances on the restart to haul County back into the match but couldn’t find the target with either before Hibs twice came close to extending their lead, Brown parrying Jordon Forster;s header from Alex Harris’ corner onto his post before Handling raced clear but couldn’t beat the goalkeeper with his low shot.

A third goal would have killed off the Dingwall outfit but it was Derek Adams’ side which claimedd the next one, Brittain curling a superb free-kick round Hibs defensive wall and beyond Williams.

Hibs: Williams, Forster, Nelson, Hanlon, McGivern, Handling (Boateng 87), Taiwo, Stevenson, Harris (Cairney 78), Stanton, Haynes (Collins 82).

Substitutes not used: Grant, Maybury, Heffernan, Cummings.

Ross County: Brown, Cikos, Songo’o, McLean, Ikonomou (Gordon 78, Brittain, Tidser, Quinn (Cooper 46), Carey, Arquin, Slew (Luckassen 73).

Substitutes not used: McCarthy, Boyd, Kettlewell, Glen.

Referee: Bobby Madden.