HIBS stood four points clear at the top of the SPL as Alex McLeish’s bandwagon continued to roll – his side securing their fifth league victory on the trot.
Hibs 2-0 St Mirren
August 26, 2000
After six games, they had gathered 16 points, scored thirteen and conceded a solitary goal. Those facts represented an exciting coming of age for McLeish as a manager, a period when he was flushing with confidence following every rousing outing by his team.
Two goals from Stuart Lovell settled this match, but it was the mentality spewing through Hibs which saw St Mirren brought to their knees. As a former defender, McLeish certainly knew where his priorities lay, but his team flowed forward with ease and vigour, channelling their attacks through a couple of anarchic strikers. With Didier Agathe injured, McLeish threw Dirk Lehmann and Mixu Paatelainen at St Mirren – a pair who weren’t world-beaters, but whom McLeish has plated with steel.
Hibs were also nicely blessed with craft and graft across their midriff. Russell Latapy, a beacon in the Scottish game, was positioned next to a man, who, to put it quaintly, liked to put it about. McLeish originally bought Matthias Jack to be an intimidating defender, but here he played the perfect role as a growling minder for Latapy.
St Mirren played decently but were repeatedly let down by ragged technique – revealed either in a poor first touch or a skewed final pass – which their German striker Jens Paeslack somehow symbolised.
Jose Quitongo certainly had the ability to slither and squirm beyond opponents. In this match there were repeated moments involving men the size of the Eiffel Tower like Franck Sauzee who couldn’t guess which way the little African would turn. These were fleeting moments, though – Hibs assaulted St Mirren, especially in the first half.
St Mirren had their French goalkeeper, Ludovic Roy, to thank for keeping Hibs at bay longer than the home side deserved.
Twice the stopper leapt to deny Paatelainen, first from a header, then from a shot, as Hibs enjoyed a period when they rained down efforts on St Mirren’s goal.
Roy also tipped an O’Neil header over and later, with his fists, diverted a stinging volley from Sauzee, all of which seemed enough to decorate this goalkeeper with some sort of medal. Even Roy, though, became helpless when Hibs scored.
The goal came out of nothing, but was certainly what Hibs deserved. Sauzee’s long pass was prodded on through the inside-left channel by O’Neil, who released the ball for Lovell to ghost in and poke it beyond Roy.
St Mirren were to grind away forlornly in the second half, but their effort took the form of much hapless aerial bombardment.
In the dying seconds Lovell stabbed in Hibs’ second from 16 yards.
Hibs: Colgan, T.Smith, G.Smith, Fenwick, Sauzee, Lovell, Jack, Latapy, O’Neil, Paatelainen, Lehmann.