John Hughes enjoyed a winning return to his former club Falkirk as Hibs made it two wins from two in the SPL.
Hughes was back at the Falkirk Stadium for the first time since stepping down as boss at the end of the previous season and new signing Anthony Stokes – a former Bairns loan star – went straight into the Hibs starting XI. The 21-year-old former Arsenal striker almost made an instant impact when he flashed a header across the face of goal in the first five minutes after good work by David van Zanten.
Less than two minutes later, Falkirk’s Scott Arfield fired in a powerful 35-yard strike that troubled Yves Ma-Kalambay, but the big Belgian goalkepeer managed to smother the ball.
With almost 15 minutes played, Darren Barr flighted in a searching ball to the Hibs penalty area and Carl Finnigan’s driving header rebounded off the crossbar. Moments later, Stokes turned on the edge of the Falkirk penalty area and struck for goal, but his low drive was gathered by Robert Olejnik.
As the half hour mark approached, Falkirk were first on the scoresheet when Ryan Flynn picked up the ball from a casual free-kick out on the left and eased past Van Zanten to fire in a low shot past Ma-Kalamby. Irish striker Stokes spoiled an opportunity to level the score when he sent a shot over the Falkirk bar from close range before defender Sol Bamba restored the balance, rising above the Falkirk defence to deliver a fine header from a John Rankin corner.
Following the break, Bamba was lucky to escape a red card following an angry reaction to a Finnigan challenge as tension gripped both sides in a fast-paced second half.
Stokes broke free on the edge of the Falkirk penalty area and elected to chip past Olejnik only to see his effort drift wide of the mark, before Derek Riordan put Hibs ahead from a Rankin free-kick delivered from the left when he guided the ball into back of the net with a neat flick from three yards out. Falkirk captain Barr then powered down the right and drifted into the Hibs penalty area before delivering a low cross that Kevin McBride cleared.
The hosts continued to press for an equaliser with further efforts from Arfield and Tam Scobbie, but the Hibs defence continued to hold firm.
Riordan had the final say with a tremendous free-kick 30 yards out that left Olejnik and the Falkirk wall standing with barely ten minutes left to play.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, Van Zanten, Hogg, Bamba, Hanlon, Rankin, McBride, Cregg, Riordan, Nish, Stokes.