Hibs 3 - 1 Partick Thistle: Hibees back with a bang in top flight
Hibs made their first Premiership outing in over three years a day to remember as they swept aside Partick Thistle 3-1 at a packed-out Easter Road.
Despite the visitors threatening to spoil the party having taken the lead through a well-worked Chris Erskine strike in the seventh minute, the Premiership’s newest club rallied with goals from Martin Boyle, Steven Whittaker and a second-half Simon Murray penalty securing Neil Lennon’s men all three points.
The hosts made two changes to the side that had beaten Alloa 3-0 in the Betfred Cup last weekend, Paul Hanlon replacing the suspended Darren McGregor and Danny Swanson, who had missed the trip to Clackmannanshire due to suspension, was preferred to teenager Fraser Murray who had to make do with a place on the bench.
It didn’t take long for Alan Archibald’s men to silence the expecting home supporters though, just seven minutes to be precise.
Having cleverly worked the ball from left to right 20 yards from goal, Steven Lawless threaded an inch-perfect pass in between Whittaker and Efe Ambrose, and Erskine coolly finished beyond Ofir Marciano into the far corner from 12 yards.
However, last season’s Championship winners were only behind for as many minutes - John McGinn’s lung-bursting run from the middle of the park completely exposing the Partick defence and from the Scotland internationalist’s intended pass to Murray, the ball deflected into the path of Boyle who tucked home the equaliser from four yards out.
The goalscorer almost got in the act against just a couple of minutes later, this time former Hibee Callum Booth finding himself in the right place at the right time to prevent what looked a certain goal.
Hibs were now breaking at every opportunity and a deft touch from Murray into the path of Swanson fell favourably for Whittaker, whose shot was straight at Tomas Cerny.
Whittaker, however, was to find the back of the net to give Lennon’s side the lead 12 minutes before the interval - his first goal in a green-and-white jersey since netting in the 3-3 stalemate with Rangers at Easter Road on April 28 2007.
Swanson was the architect this time, jinking his way into the left side of the penalty box before sending a low cross into the path of the onrushing former Norwich City player, who stabbed his effort into the bottom right corner. Hibs had the lead at the interval their play thoroughly deserved.
Swanson went in search of a third almost immediately from the restart, using the run of Murray to create space for a shot from just inside the penalty area, although Cerny read the former St Johnstone’s angled strike.
However, Swanson was to have a say as Hibs increased their lead six minutes after the restart. Boyle was again finding ample room down the right and, having received a neat return pass from Swanson, Booth took a swipe at the winger who was sent tumbling to the ground.
Referee Nick Walsh wasted no time in awarding the spot-kick and Murray duly dispatched the ball past Cerny to increase the Leith side’s lead.
On the hour mark an incisive pass from McGinn deep inside his own territory picked out the run of Boyle, who drove at Booth before floating a cross to the back post that picked out team-mate Murray. The striker took one touch to control before angling his shot away from goal only to see it come back off the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Hibs had further chances to increase their tally, Anthony Stokes making an appearance from the bench with 20 minutes remaining to rapturous applause, but Lennon will just be satisfied to kick start the campaign with a comfortable victory in front of the club’s supporters.
Hibs: Marciano, Whittaker, Ambrose, Hanlon, Stevenson, Bartley (Slivka 76), McGinn, McGeouch, Swanson (Stokes 69), Boyle, S Murray (F Murray 84).
Subs not used: Laidlaw, Fontaine, Porteous, Matulevicius.
Partick Thistle: Cerny, Booth, Keown, Osman, Bannigan, Devine, Elliott, Barton, Erskine, Lawless (Nitriansky 69), Doolan (Nisbet 29).
Subs not used: Scully, Turnbull, Penrice, McCarthy, McLaughlin.
Referee: Nick Walsh