Hibs hopes of avoiding the play-off scrap took another huge dent today as Terry Butcher’s side crashed to yet another defeat against a St Mirren outfit forced to play with ten men for more than an hour.
Saints skipper Jim Goodwin saw red for a late challenge on Hibs Kevin Thomson after 29 minutes but by then the Buddies were already two up, Steven McLean netting in just 13 seconds before Paul McGowan added another with 14 minutes played.
For the fourth successive match Hibs failed to score, their shocking run now amounting to just one win in 14 league matches, the four point advantage with which they started the day again whittled away by those chasing them down.
Butcher again rang the changes in a bid to find that elusive winning formula, Welsh internationalist Owain Tudur Jones making his first appearance since early January following a hamstring injury while Alan Maybury and Danny Haynes returned after suspensions to be joined in the starting line-up by Thomson.
Ryan McGivern was out serving a one-match ban while club captain Liam Craig and Tom Taiwo had to content themselves with a seat on the bench,
Hibs were immediately up against it, losing the opening goal of the game with only 13 seconds on the clock, Steven Thompson nodding John McGinn’s long ball into the path of McLean who drilled it past the helpless Ben Williams.
Butcher would have been furious at the simplicity of that strike, but the Edinburgh club had an opportunity to hit back right away, Alex Harris’ free-kick finding Michael Nelson in space but the big defender headed wide.
Saints, though were first to everything and Hibs woes deepened in the 14th minute when Jordon Forster was dispossessed inside his own half, McLean slipping the ball through for McGowan to tuck into the bottom left hand corner of Williams’ net.
Those early goals had left Hibs and their 1526 travelling support stunned but they were offered a glimmer of hope when Christopher Dilo couldn’t hold Sam Stanton’s shot, the Buddies goalkeeper redeeming himself by grabbing the ball before Haynes could take advantage.
Saints were reduced to ten men after 29 minutes when skipper Goodwin caught Thomson late, the Hibs star left writhing on the turf as referee Kevin Clancy had no hesitation in flashing the red card.
The home support, though, saw Thomson as very much the villain, the midfielder roundly jeered every time he touched the ball thereafter.
Stanton had the opportunity to celebrate his new four-year deal with a goal before the interval when Thomson fed him an inviting ball, but the 19-year-old blazed wildly over.
And with only seconds of the half remaining Sean Kelly went close to making it three for the Paisley outfit, his powerful run ending with a low shot which just crept wide of target.
Saints two-goal cushion allowed them to start the second half in a comfortable position against the Scottish Premiership’s lowest scoring side, Hibs offering nothing in the way of threat to Dilo other than a sliced clearance from Marc McAusland and a Tudur Jones header which went straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Hibs piled on the pressure in the closing ten minutes with centre-half Michael Nelson pushed up front but the Buddies were able to cope easily with everything thrown at them.
St Mirren: Dilo, Naismith, McAusland, McGregor, Kelly, Goodwin,. McGinn (Teale 90+1), McGowan (Magennis 55),, McLean, Newton, Thompson (Wylde 74)..
Substitutes not used: Kello, Van Zanten, Djemba-Djemba, Campbell.
Hibs: Williams, Maybury, Nelson, Forster, Stevenson, Harris., Tudur Jones (Watmore 70), Thomson, Stanton, Haynes, Collins (Cummings 57).
Substitutes not used: Murdoch, Craig, Boateng, Handling, Taiwo.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.