Hamilton 0 - 1 Hibs: Substitutes lift visitors as Shaw goal ends winless run
Hibs finally returned to winning ways after a seven-game skid with a thoroughly improved second-half performance against Hamilton Accies at the Hope CBD stadium.
Oli Shaw grabbed the only goal of the game after Neil Lennon's men were lifted by the introduction of two substitutes. Emerson Hyndman played for only the second time since the 6-0 win over the same opponent in early October, while Daryl Horgan rose from the bench to provide the key assist.
The Easter Road side remain in eighth position in the Ladbrokes Premiership despite the win, though it provides a much-needed confidence boost with tougher fixtures coming up in a hectic festive period.
There was some confusion before the game had even started with both teams emerging from the tunnel without their two starting goalkeepers. Both Adam Bogdan, who'd suffered a groin injury, and Jan Mucha had both hurt themselves in the warm-up. Gary Woods replaced the Slovakian stopper for Accies, while Ofir Marciano came in for his first appearance of the season.
While the opening exchanges were scrappy in the midfield area, each side retained an air of menace when they were able to work it into the final third.
Hamilton fashioned two great chances for themselves in the first quarter of an hour. The first arrived after just 50 seconds as good work from James Keatings, Mikael Miller and Rakish Bingham saw the latter played through on the right of the penalty area. The striker was caught in two minds and blasted a cross-cum-shot high and wide.
He was a little more unfortunate a short time later when played through by Keatings. Running to the centre of the box, he was set to pull the trigger when Miquel Nelom appeared out of nowhere to block the effort.
As often witnessed this season, Hibs offered a threat from deep through the shooting ability of Stevie Mallan. He stung the palms of Woods with an effort from 30 yards. Just moments later he would go close again. This time the ex-St Mirren star almost caught out the keeper at his front post with a free-kick from the left flank. Woods was only able to push the ball back into the crowded penalty area, where Martin Boyle's follow-up was blocked and Accies were able to scramble clear.
Bingham threatened again around the half-hour mark, finding space on the left side of the penalty area and testing Marciano in the Hibs goal.
The visitors would have a strong call for a penalty before the half was up when Ryan Porteous appeared to be pushed from behind while attacking a Mallan corner. Team-mate Vykintas Slivka was booked for his protests as referee Bobby madden remained unmoved. Porteous then headed over from another set-piece.
At the other end Keatings missed a glorious chance to open the scoring. The former Hibs man was all alone inside the six-yard box to finish Miller's cut-back, but his attempt at a side-foot finish slipped wide.
With the half-time whistle imminent, Boyle chased after a ball over the top. The speedster clashed with the goalkeeper as Woods came to collect. The Hibs midfielder lay prone on the ground, requiring lengthy treatment before being stretchered off in a neck brace. Fans of both sides applauded as he left the field, replaced by Hyndman.
Incredibly, before the second half could start, another change had to be made between the sticks with Woods being forced from action due to a knock picked up early in the half. He was replaced by Jacob Marsden. It was just as well for the visitors that Woods was the last custodian to curse his luck, seeing as they didn't have a sub goalkeeper on the bench.
The young stopper, making his debut, would be called into action numerous times in the second half as Hibs significantly upped their game. Before then, though, the away side survived a scare when Ziggy Gordon headed a Keatings' free-kick off the outside of the post.
Hyndman was influential in the midfield area as his energy gave Hibs a real shot in the arm. He robbed ex-Hearts full-back Lennard Sowah down the right before cutting back for Florian Kamberi. The striker caught it well but was denied by Marsden.
The 20-year-old showed off his reactions again on 55 minutes to deny Hyndman after a neat give-and-go with Kamberi. He then denied Oli Shaw as Hibs pushed forward in the hope of making a breakthrough.
That finally arrived when Daryl Horgan, just on for Nelom, sent over a tantalising ball to the back post where Shaw was on hand to cooly place back across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
There was little reaction from the home side as Hibs continued to pile forward. Marsden added to his fine individual performance as he denied Shaw a second goal before reaching high to push Slivka's effort over the bar. Despite six minutes of injury-time being added, Accies failed to sufficiently threatened the goal and the points headed back to Leith.
Hamilton (4-4-2 diamond): Woods (Marsden 46); McGowan, Gordon, Kilgallon, Sowah; MacKinnon; Taiwo (Boyd 77), Imrie; Keatings; Miller, Bingham (Bloomfield 71). Subs not used: McMann, Want, Martin, Brustad.
Hibs (4-3-1-2): Bogdan; Mavrias, Ambrose, Porteous, Stevenson; Slivka, Mallan, Nelom (Horgan 62); Boyle (Hyndman 45); Shaw, Kamberi. Subs not used: Whittaker, McGregor, Maclaren, Allan, Gullan.
Bookings: Hamilton - Keatings, Gordon. Hibs - Slivka
Referee: Bobby Madden