DERBY day hero Leigh Griffiths scored twice more as Hibs survived a nailbiting finale in Paisley to claim their first win of the season.
Griffiths struck in either half only to see Hibs two goal lead halved by Saints striker Steven Thompson. Griffiths might have had a hat-trick with a free-kick which clipped the bar but with six minutes of added on time following a serious injury to Buddies defender Darren McGregor early in the second period, Pat Fenlon’s side endured a nervous ending before the relief of referee Steven McLean’s final whistle.
Hibs latest signing Shefki Kuqi started from the bench as Fenlon’s side showed just one change from the derby day draw with Hearts, Jorge Claros replacing broken toe victim Lewis Stevenson in midfield. But the Finnish veteran did get a cameo role, replacing Eoin Doyle for the final six minutes.
The Easter Road side made an untidy start, two slack clearances most unlike skipper James McPake not helping their early nerves. Slowly, but surely, though, Fenlon’s side pulled themselves into the match and they grabbed the lead after 18 minutes.
David Wotherspoon supplied a fantastic crossfield ball which left Griffiths one-on-one with Saints defender Darren McGregor who seemed to have done enough to hold up the Hibs striker on the edge of his own penalty area. But Griffiths was sharp as a tack, taking the ball off McGregor’s legs and drilling a low shot across Buddies goalkeeper Craig Samson and into the far corner of the net.
The home defence was looking anything but assured and Griffiths drove another shot from a tight angle into the sidenetting before Tim Clancy clipped a curling free-kick over and then sent a glancing header from Griffiths’ corner just wide of target.
But Hibs had goalkeeper Williams to thank for keeping them level in the 33rd minute, McPake adjudged by referee McLean to have used an arm as he attempted to deal with Dougie Imrie’s deflected cross. It looked a harsh decision but Williams superbly threw himself low to his left to stop Paul McGowan’s effort from the spot.
Williams was mobbed by his team-mates but at the other end Saints were equally grateful to Samson as he did well to get a hand to Doyle’s powerful downward header from Griffith’s wickedly delivered free-kick.
Saints boss Danny Lennon through on Jon Robertson and Gary Teale at the start of the second half and was forced to make his third and final change just ten minutes later, McGregor crashing into the woodwork as he and McPake went for Teale’s free-kick.
McGregor was stretchered off after a lengthy break but Hibs got the second goal their play deserved on the hour mark, Griffiths taking Doyle’s pass and slipping the attentions of Lee Mair before firing a shot past the left hand of Samson.
Griffiths was booked for running into the Hibs fans behind Samson’s goal but the Edinburgh club hardly had time to celebrate before Saints cut their lead, Thompson all alone to flick home Imrie’s low cross in the 62nd minute.
With Thompson and Sam Parkin upfront Hibs knew to expect an aerial bombardment for Saints and that’s what they got, McPake rising to nod the ball to safety from virtually under his own bar with Thompson behind him before Griffiths almost claimed his hat-trick with a free-kick which clipped the top of Samson’s bar with the goalkeeper beaten.
But at the other end Williams had to pull off a pointblank save to prevent Thompson equalising with 15 minues remaining.
St Mirren: Samson, McAusland, McGregor, Mair, Carey (Robertson 46), McGowan, Imrie, Goodwin (Teale 46), McLean, Thompson, Parkin. Subs not used: C Smith. Barron, McGinn, J Smith, Van Zanten.
Hibs: Williams, Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Maybury, Wotherspoon, Claros, Deegan, Cairney (Sproule 75), Griffiths (Caldwell 90), Doyle (Kuqi 84). Subs not used: Antell, O’Hanlon, Handling, Stanton.
Referee: Steven McLean.