Hibs 2 - 0 Dumbarton: Nervy Hibs win but they stay top
Goals in either half from Paul Hanlon and Brian Graham saw Hibs defeat Dumbarton and bounce back from the loss to Championship title rivals Dundee United to keep their grip on top place in the table.
It was a far from fluent performance from Neil Lennon’s players, the absence of injury victims John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie, James Keatings and Ofir Marciano having a clear bearing on their display but they dug in to take all three points against a dogged Dumbarton side.
Hanlon broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with his third goal of the season and Graham guaranteed the victory by making it two 14 minutes from time.
Hibs made heavy weather of an opening half-hour against a side which showed no hangover from their Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Bonnyrigg Rose, leading to an anxiety among home fans made all the more nervous by the news that Champioship rivals Dundee United had taken an early lead away to Ayr United.
Play was far from pretty with goalmouth incident at a premium until Hibs defender Hanlon rose high above everyone else to meet Andrew Shinnie’s corner only to power his header wide of target. Graham, too, should have done better when Martin Boyle played a cutback into his path but rather than shooting first time the striker took a touch and was crowded out.
Jason Cummings, starting a match for the first time in almost two months, nearly broke the deadlock with a cheeky back heel at the front post but Dumbarton goalkeeper Alan Martin was alert to the danger, The Hibs support, though, were beginning to warm to what they were seeing. Martin gratefully grabbed the ball after Graham's driven cross had crashed off Gregor Buchanan before he managed to catch Lewis Stevenson’s cross as it threatened to creep in under his bar.
Hanlon went close again with a diving header from Shinnie’s cross which Martin held at the second attempt and it was the defender who broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, meeting Cummings’ corner from the left to hammer the ball home from six yards out.
Cummings thought he’d got his first goal since September 17 when he got on the end of Graham’s header from David Gray’s deep cross. The striker sent the ball into the net only to find the offside flag raised against him as Hibs sought to stretch their narrow lead.
But the second goal came 14 minutes from time, Gray picking out Graham at the edge of Dumbarton’s penalty area, giving the striker the time to take a touch and fire in a shot which found the back of the net with the aid of a slight deflection.
Hibs: Laidlaw, McGregor, Hanlon, Fontaine, Gray, Shinnie, Bartley (McGeouch 75), L Stevenson. Boyle, Graham, Cummings
Substitutes not used: Virtanen, Holt, Forster, Eardley, Crane, S Martin.
Dumbarton: A Martin, Docherty, J Thomson, Buchanan, Todd, Fleming (R Stevenson 75), R Thomson, Harvie, Barr, Smith, Stirling.
Substitutes not used: Brown, Pettigrew, McCallum, Lyden, Crawford.
Referee: John McKendrick.