Evergreen Stevenson, ref takes centre stage, Marshall's redemption - talking points from Hibs' draw at St Johnstone

Hibs did just enough against St Johnstone on Saturday to secure a place in the top six, Lewis Stevenson’s strike cancelling out Stevie May’s opener to earn a point in Perth.
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Lee Johnson kept faith in the same line-up that started against Hearts, and the same substitutes bar Mykola Kukharevych who missed out through injury, and Josh Campbell, omitted through illness. The duo’s absence meant a return to the bench for Jair Tavares, and a place among the subs for Allan Delferrière who has impressed for the reserves in recent weeks.

It was a nervy start from Hibs with the hosts on top in the opening exchanges, and May’s overhead attempt on 25 minutes somehow squirmed through David Marshall to give the hosts the lead, but a fine finish from Stevenson restored parity and that was largely that bar a couple of Marshall saves from Melker Hallberg.

Stevenson outlines importance

Lewis Stevenson is congratulated by Paul Hanlon after his leveller against St JohnstoneLewis Stevenson is congratulated by Paul Hanlon after his leveller against St Johnstone
Lewis Stevenson is congratulated by Paul Hanlon after his leveller against St Johnstone
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Hibs are in talks with Stevenson over a new deal and he proved his worth at both ends of the park, hitting a fine equaliser – his first goal for Hibs since his strike against NSÍ Runavík in July 2018 – to cancel out Stevie May’s opener and then clearing off the line in the second half after David Marshall had saved from Drey Wright. He might be 35, and turn 36 in January, but his standing at the club, his influence on the younger players, his reliability, and his determination at the very least make him a good squad option for next season.

Marshall redeems himself

You imagine David Marshall won’t want to watch back the footage of May’s goal – he may have been unsighted but the ball somehow squirmed under him and over the line. The goal came not long after he had scuffed a kickout straight to Drey Wright, although he saved the former Hibs man’s effort. But in the second half he redeemed himself, pulling off a fine one-handed save from Hallberg and denying the Swede a second time late on.

Referee takes centre stage – again

Much of the past week has been taken up by the aftermath of the red card shown to Graeme Shinnie in Aberdeen’s 1-0 but expect another seven days of debate after Jeggo’s dismissal. Replays proved it was a harsh decision, and Lee Johnson didn’t miss referee Craig Napier in his lengthy and detailed post-match remarks. There was also a bizarre instance where the official appeared to force Kevin Nisbet to receive treatment when the player had waved the physio away, leaving Johnson fuming on the touchline.

Top six secured, now onto Europe

The fact that the scoreline in Perth and results elsewhere confirmed Hibs will be playing top-six football for the remainder of the campaign was a virtual afterthought given Johnson’s filleting of the referee in his post-match press conference and the fact Hibs were far from their best. “Over the course of 33 games, we're currently the fifth-best team in the league and we give ourselves a chance to stay fifth and potentially go higher. Everything's still to play for, which is great,” he said afterwards. Hibs have a real chance to secure European football but will have to take things up a notch to avoid another damp squib of a top-six campaign.