Aberdeen 1, Hibs 0: Defeat sends Hibees into bottom half of table
Hibs slipped into the bottom six for the first time since returning to the Scottish Premiership at the start of last season after a third consecutive match without scoring a goal.
Gary Mackay-Steven’s first-half strike for Aberdeen, following a lapse by Ryan Porteous, was enough to settle an evenly-matched contest on a night when blustery conditions made for a grim spectacle at Pittodrie.
Hibs had the better of the second half but, despite having Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi reunited in attack, weren’t clinical enough to force an equaliser at a ground where they haven’t won since May 2012. The resurgent Dons, who made it four wins in succession, climbed into the top six at the expense of their visitors who now face a two-week break before beginning a gruelling run of nine games in 35 days as they bid to breathe fresh life into a hitherto underwhelming campaign.
Hibs made four changes to the side that started the 1-0 defeat at home to St Johnstone last Saturday, with Darren McGregor, Porteous, Vykintas Slivka and Kamberi replacing Steven Whittaker, Emerson Hyndman, Daryl Horgan and Marvin Bartley. This meant Kamberi, back after serving a suspension last weekend, was able to be paired in attack with Maclaren for the first time since the Europa League defeat away to Molde in August following an injury-disrupted start to the campaign for the two strikers who had formed such an effective partnership in the second half of last season. The pair spearheaded a Hibs team which started in a 3-5-2 formation, with Mark Milligan, back in midfield after playing in defence for the previous two matches, captaining the side in the continued absence of injured duo David Gray and Paul Hanlon.
Starting the match level on points with each other in mid-table and with the spectre of the losing side spending the November international break in the bottom six, there was plenty incentive for both Aberdeen and Hibs to eke out a positive result.
Hibs shaded the early exchanges and had a few half-chances via Stevie Mallan set-pieces in the opening quarter of an hour. After five minutes, Aberdeen defender Shay Logan had to make a vital block just in front of his own goal after Milligan had diverted McGregor’s header towards the net. Mallan then curled a free-kick over the bar from a promising position 20 yards out.
At the other end, Hibs goalkeeper Adam Bogdan had to act smartly in the 17th minute to stop Niall McGinn’s free-kick from wide on the right dipping in under his bar after Porteous had been booked for chopping down Mackay-Steven.
The Dons were beginning to enjoy the bulk of the pressure and McGregor did well to charge down a James Wilson shot just inside the box after Mackay-Steven had rolled a corner into the path of the unmarked on-loan Manchester United striker.
Hibs had a promising opportunity on the counter-attack in the 31st minute when Mallan surged into the Aberdeen half but the former St Mirren and Barnsley midfielder tried to thread a ball through the middle when the better option appeared to be slipping in Stevenson, who had sprinted up the left to get himself into a dangerous position.
Just as an uninspiring half, in which both teams were hindered by the conditions, seemed to be drifting towards a goalless conclusion, Aberdeen took the lead following an error from Porteous five minutes before the interval. The teenager’s slack pass out of defence was intercepted by Mackay-Steven midway inside the Hibs half and the former Dundee United and Celtic winger surged forward before firing a clinical low shot beyond the despairing stretch of Bogdan from 20 yards out.
Hibs forced a few corners in the early stages of the second half, and one of them, in the 55th minute, almost brought an equaliser as Milligan glanced just wide after connecting with Mallan’s delivery.
The visitors had a great chance to pull themselves level in the 59th minute when Milligan clipped a lovely pass into the path of Kamberi, who took the ball past the advancing Joe Lewis, but the Swiss striker’s effort from a tight angle caught the wind and sailed over the open goal.
Hibs had a let-off in the 62nd minute when Stevie May burst on to a wind-assisted clearance and dinked the ball beyond Bogdan but McGregor did well to get back and stop the Dons striker knocking it into the net.
Three minutes later, the Easter Road side thought they had equalised when Kamberi met a low delivery from Slivka at the near post and flicked the ball goalwards but it ran agonisingly beyond the far post. The former Grasshoppers striker had another good chance in the 72nd minute but he was unable to get enough of a connection to turn the ball goalwards after Boyle fizzed in a dangerous cross from the right.
Hibs made three changes in the final 11 minutes but were unable to find a way through.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Shinnie, McKenna, Wilson (Anderson 70), McGinn, Mackay-Steven (Ball 90), May (Cosgrove 87), Devlin, Ferguson, Lowe. Subs: Cerny, Considine, Gleeson, Wright.
Hibs: Bogdan, Ambrose, McGregor, Porteous, Boyle, Milligan, Slivka (Horgan 79), Mallan, Stevenson (Mackie 89), Maclaren (Allan 79), Kamberi. Subs: Marciano, Whittaker, Mavrias, Gullan. Booked: Porteous, Mallan, Milligan.
Referee: Alan Muir