St Johnstone 3 - 1 Hibs: Reality check for new boss Fenlon as Hibs crash to defeat

St Johnstone's Dave Mackay beats the Hibernian wall to score his side's third of the game

St Johnstone's Dave Mackay beats the Hibernian wall to score his side's third of the game

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New Hibs boss Pat Fenlon was served warning of the enormity of the task ahead of his as he watched the Easter Road outfit slump to yet another defeat, well beaten by St Johnstone. despite having taken the lead.

Fenlon took his seat in the directors’ box at McDiarmid Park alongside his former assistant at Irish outfit Bohemians, Liam O’Brien, leaving caretaker boss Billy Brown in charge for a second match.

And he’d have been delighted to see Richie Towell, like himself a native of Dublin, open the scoring for the udner-pressure Edinburgh side.

But thereafter it was the same sorry story from Hibs, a horrific mistake from David Stephens allowing Francisco Sandaza to equalise while Marcus Haber was left all alone to nod Saints into a half-time lead.

Two minutes into the second half Hibs were even further behind, Saints defender Dave Mackay curling a beautiful free-kick on off the post.

A throat infection robbed Hibs of top scorer Garry O’Connor while Saints lost the services of one time Easter Road target Cillian Sheridan within ten minutes, the Perth hitman pulling up with another hamstring injury.

The opening 20 minutes or so were, however, scrappy with neither side able to exert any hint of dominance although Callum Davidson threatened to open up the visiting defence only to find subsitute Marcus Haber running offside.

Hibs went in front after 26 minutes, Griffiths picking up a loose ball and making space for a shot which Saints goalkeeper Peter Enckelman managed to push away despite a deflection. But it fell to Towell who steadied himself before drilling in a shot which the Finn half-stopped but was unable to prevent it finding the net.

Two minutes later Hibs had a half-chance to double their tally but Martin Scott missed Ivan Sproule’s cross before Lewis Stevenson fired wide.

A Haber knock-down fell just out of the reach of Murray Davidson as St Johnstone sought an equaliser while Liam Millar brushed aside Paul Hanlon only to shoot wide before Steve Lomas’ side hauled themselves level in the 39th minute thanks to a dreadful error by Stephens.

The Welsh Under-21 looked in no danger as he collected a loose ball but somehow managed to let it slip under his foot, leaving Sandaza with only Graham Stack to beat. The striker’s first effort came back off the post but he was alert enough to fire the rebound home.

And it went from bad to worse for Hibs in the minute added on at the end of the first half, Dave Mackay delivering an inviting cross from the right to the back post where Haber had been left all alone, an opportunity he wasn’t going to scorn as he nodded the ball down and past Stack.

The Hibs goalkeeper was beaten again two minutes into the second half, Stephens foul on Murray Davidson offering Saints full-back Dave Mackay the opportunity to curl a superb free-kick from 25 yards round the defensive wall and in off Stack’s left hand post.

Mackay’s goal left Saints in easy street and Hibs facing the ever-growing threat of a relegation battle with the gap between them and the bottom of the SPL table precariously narrow.

Brown through on Akpo Sodje, Danny Galbraith and Junior Agogo in a bid to get Hibs back into the game but even with the wind at their backs the Capital side was finding the going tough with another Saints goal looking more likely than one from the players in green.

In fact, the closest they came was eight minutes from the end when Agogo steered Galbraith’s cross just over while seconds from the end Haber crashed a shot off the woodwork.

St Johnstone: Enckelman, Mackay, Anderson, Wright, C Davidson, Millar, M Davidson, Craig, Moon, Sandaza, Sheridan (Haber 10).

Subs not used: Mannus, Maybury, Finnigan, Durnan, May, McIntosh.

Hibs: Stack, Wotherspoon, O’Hanlon, Stephens, Hanlon, Towell (Sodje 65), Sproule, Osbourne, Scott (Galbraith 72), Stevenson, Griffiths (Agogo 74), Sproule. Subs not used: Brown, Galbraith, Palsson, Welsh, Murray.

Referee: B Madden.