Hibs 2, Livingston 1
Goalkeeper Mark Oxley proved to be the unlikely matchwinner as Hibs took their first three points of the season with a nervy victory over Livingston.
Oxley’s moment of glory came 19 minutes into the match, the on-loan Hull City player sending a towering clearance into the visitors’ penalty area where goalkeeper Darren Jamieson misjudged the bounce of the ball, watching helplessly as it soared over his head and into the net.
By that time Alan Stubhs’ side were a goal to the good, Farid El Alagui having also notched his first goal for the club but the Easter Road side, after snubbing a number of opportunities to extend their lead, were left facing a nervy finish after Declan Gallagher pulled one back for John McGlynn’s team.
Stubbs made just one change to the side which impressed at Ibrox in midweek, Paul Heffernan coming in for the suspended Danny Handling while latest signing 19-year-old Everton winger Matthew Kennedy had to content himself with a seat on the bench.
Hibs survived a scare after just nine minutes, Gallagher rising to power in a header from Jason Talbot’s corner only to see his effort crash off Oxley’s crossbar.
But the home fans were celebrating seven minutes later when, having seen his initial shot deflected wide, El Alagui found himself perfectly positioned to meet Liam Craig’s corner to steer a great header into the roof of the net.
A worry for Hibs, though, was at this point Paul Hanlon was off the pitch receiving urgent treatment for a cut below his left eye although before Oxley had put the Capital club two up, his clearance from the edge of his own area deceiving his opposite number Darren Jamieson, the ball bouncing over his head as he stood stranded just beyond the penalty spot and into the empty net.
In doing so the on-loan Hull City star become the first goalkeeper for score for Hibs in 26 years, Andy Goram having similarly bamboozled Morton No.1 David Wylie on the final day of the season in 1988.
And it brought cries of “shoot” from the stands next time he had the ball in his hands although Craig, Alex Harris and Heffernan needed no such encouragement, all three going close to adding to Hibs lead before even half-an-hour had elapsed.
Jamieson may have been left looking foolish for that second goal but he redeemed himself to a certain extent, rising acrobatically to push aside Craig’s thundering drive before Jordon Forster nodded down another Oxley clearance for Heffernan who lobbed the goalkeeper only for the ball to clear the bar by inches.
As half-time approached Livinston went close to pulling one back, Callum Fordyce’’s shot cleared by David Gray as it threatened to sneak in at Oxley’s right hand post.
Gallagher’s effort, though, reminded Hibs the job wasn’t yet done and they had another wake-up call minutes into the second half, former Hearts striker Gary Glenn left with a clear sight of goal only to blast the ball high over.
Hibs, however, were soon back on the front foot, Harris firing in a tempting cross from the left only for Sam Stanton to get the ball caught between his feet as he attempted to shoot and then Gray exchanged passes with Stanton before firing his shot over the top.
Stubbs’ side should have been out of sight but they found themselves pegged back in the 59th minute when Burton O’Brien caught them napping with a short free-kick at the edge of the penalty area which allowed Michael McKenna to deliver a curling shot.
Oxley managed to tip it onto the bar but the ball fell kindly for Gallagher who had no trouble in tapping it into the empty net.
Heffernan fluffed his lines after El Alagui’s knockdown, despite Gallagher’s high boot, gave him a sight of goal before Danny Mullen forced Oxley to stretch full-length to his right to take his low shot.
There was now a nervousness around Easter Road but none of the boos and jeers of last season, the fans recognising its early days under the new regime with a style of play more pleasing on the eye but one still requiring that killer instinct.
Meanwhile, Hibs insisted they are “not actively seeking offers” for the club in the wake of reports that a £3.5 million bid had been made to take control of the parent company, HFC Holdings Ltd.
Financial advisor David Low has revealed he’s heading up a consortium intent on a takeover with backing from this country and the United States and has already made an approach to the Capital outfit.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Forster, Hanlon, Stevenson, Harris, S Robertson, Craig, Stanton (Cummings 79) , Heffernan (Kennedy 79), El Alagui.
Substitutes not used: Perntreou, Nelson, S Allan, Booth, Tudur Jones.
Livingston: Jamieson, Talbot, Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, Keaghan Jacobs, Gallagher, McKenna, White (Burchill 81), Glen (Hippolyte 71), Mullen (D Robertson 81).
Substitutes not used: Grant, Beaumont, Moffat, Rutherford.
Referee: Bobby Madden.