Hibs 2, Motherwell 1: Kamberi and Barker goals secure win
A day of drama at Easter Road ended with Hibs consolidating fourth place in the Premiership table as new signing Florian Kamberi and Brandon Barker both claimed their first goals for the Capital club.
The hours leading up to kick-off had been filled with talk of who was coming and going on transfer deadline day, something of a distraction for everyone. But when it got down to it, Kamberi celebrated his first outing with a thundering strike from the edge of the penalty area before Barker sent a second into the roof of the Motherwell net two minutes after half-time.
The home fans, though, had to sit through a nervy ending as Curtis Main kept up his goalscoring streak for the Fir Park outfit as he hauled his side back into the game with 12 minutes remaining.
And he almost claimed an equaliser in the third minute of added-on time, Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano rising to tip over his netbound effort and so ensure Neil Lennon’s players moved seven points ahead of Hearts.
Hibs fans trooped into Easter Road having endured perhaps one of the most bizarre transfer windows they could remember, and wondering just who they would see lining up in a green-and-white shirt following the preceding few hours.
The loss of Anthony Stokes following his well-publicised disciplinary problems and defender Liam Fontaine, who’d fallen out of the picture given his injury problems, were expected.
But the three-way transfer involving top scorer Simon Murray, goalkeeper Scott Bain – signed as cover for Marciano as the window opened – and former Hibs midfielder Scott Allan was one of intrigue.
And, perhaps, it could be viewed as the law of unintended consequences, had Efe Ambrose not crocked Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon at the weekend – ruling him out of action for three months and leaving his boss Brendan Rodgers frantically searching for back-up for the Hoops’ Europa League campaign – would this unlikely scenario had ever unfolded.
The upshot of this complicated day of negotiations was Bain heading for the east end of Glasgow, his loan spell in Edinburgh cut short, while Murray was destined for Dens Park as Allan returned to the Capital having left Hibs for Celtic in the summer of 2015.
In a strange quirk, the name of John McGinn, who had been widely touted for a move with Cardiff City said to be the latest English Championship side interested in signing the Scotland midfielder, had never been mentioned.
Such was the speed of proceedings, Bain was pictured turning up at Celtic Park to complete the formalities of his move still sporting his Hibs gear.
Adding another layer of intrigue to the day was the appearance within Easter Road of Cammy Bell, the Kilmarnock goalkeeper having been released by the Rugby Park club ahead of the midnight deadline.
The worry for Hibs fans would have been that in the space of a few hours they’d seen their club’s two leading scorers, Murray and Stokes, depart, leaving new arrival Kamberi to lead the line with Australian internationalist Jamie Maclaren again starting from the bench.
Kamberi almost enjoyed a dream start, the striker unleashing a powerful shot after Barker had outstripped Richard Tait but Cedric Kipre appeared from nowhere to take the ball off the line. From the subsequent corner, Paul Hanlon rose above goalkeeper Trevor Carson, the subject of a failed £375,000 bid from Celtic which set everything else in motion, to meet McGinn’s cross but his header crashed back off the woodwork.
However, Kamberi only had to wait until the 28th minute to claim his first Hibs goal, and what an effort it was. McGinn’s shot was deflected and only partially cleared as far as the on-loan Grasshoppers player, who sent in a thundering shot from the 18-yard line which crashed down off Carson’s bar and in.
Kamberi certainly enjoyed the moment, racing to the touchline where he ran into the welcoming arms of Faycal Rherras.
Motherwell attempted to hit back, Craig Tanner combining with Alan Campbell just inside Hibs’ penalty area but the Fir Park midfielder’s low shot was a couple of yards off target before Tanner fired a speculative effort into the grasp of Marciano.
Hibs were well worth their narrow lead at the interval but they’d doubled that advantage within two minutes of the second half starting with a superbly-worked goal. McGinn played a clever ball down the left touchline to release the pace of Boyle, the winger making ground before cutting it back into the path of Barker.
His finish was as equally accomplished as that of Kamberi, the on-loan Manchester City player flashing a right-foot shot high into the roof of Carson’s net, his first Hibs goal after weeks of going so close a moment to remember.
A third almost followed, Dylan McGeouch spraying a terrific 50-yard pass which split the Motherwell defence but, unfortunately, Boyle was unable to gather.
Having replaced Vykintas Slivka with Marvin Bartley at half-time, presumably to add a little more muscle to combat Motherwell’s physical approach, Hibs were forced into another change when Darren McGregor came off, Lennon reshuffling his back four with Ambrose dropping in alongside Hanlon with Rherras making his debut as he slotted into the right-back berth.
Hibs would have been mindful of the fact that Motherwell recovered from being two goals down on their last visit to Easter Road to force a 2-2 draw and as such were obviously intent on not giving Stephen Robinson’s side a way back into this match.
Indeed, the home side had looked solid at the back, Marciano’s only involvement being a series of routine takes, testament to the cover offered by those in front of him.
The Israeli internationalist was finally called into action in the 77th minute, getting down low to hold Chris Cadden’s effort before being beaten seconds later as Main fired a low shot beyond him from six yards out after Hanlon misjudged the bounce on a long ball forward.
Again, it was to be a nervous ending for Hibs, a scenario they’d been forced to endure on countless occasions already this season, their worries almost evaporating as Kamberi shot flashed beyond the near post.
There was that further moment of anxiety when Main thought he’d levelled things so it was understandable the relief which swept around the ground as referee Alan Muir, who’d irked the home support time and again, blew that whistle for the last time.
Hibs: Marciano, Ambrose, McGregor (Rherras 59), Hanlon, Stevenson, McGeouch, McGinn, Slivka (Bartley 46), Boyle, Barker (Porteous 80), Kamberi. Unused subs: Dabrowski, Swanson, Maclaren, Shaw.
Motherwell: Carson, Kipre, Aldred, Dunne, Grimshaw (Cadden 62), Rose (Bigirimana 62), McHugh (Ciftci 75), Campbell, Tait, Tanner, Main. Unused subs: Petravicius, Hartley, Griffiths, Hendrie.
Referee: A Muir