Hibs 5, St Mirren 1. SPL. Saturday, December 23, 2006
John Collins’ Easter Road express tore apart a St Mirren side that flattered to deceive before being comprehensively derailed with a five-card trick.
Scott Brown was missing from the Hibs squad after a joint bid for him and Kevin Thomson was rejected this week. Captain Thomson was suspended, while Brown’s absence was down to a training ground injury.
Saints started brightly enough, pinging the ball around crisply on an excellent playing surface, but Hibs soon began to have a say in proceedings with Steven Fletcher, set up beautifully by Shelton Martis, missing the target when well placed.
With stand-in skipper Rob Jones towering in defence, and Michael Stewart the fulcrum in midfield, Hibs dominated the opening quarter, while the Buddies’ cause was not helped when striker Billy Mehmet was forced off injured with just a dozen minutes gone.
The next passage of play saw a string of corners for Hibs both left and right. They almost capitalised when Tony Bullock clawed Merouane Zemmama’s delivery and Stewart’s volley scraped the bar on its way into a silent, subdued St Mirren contingent behind the goal.
Hibs’ pressure eventually paid off in the 20th minute when, from yet another Zemmama corner on the left, Saints could only clear the ball as far as David Murphy whose intelligent interplay with Fletcher and Chris Killen saw Guillaume Beuzelin slot the ball home from the Kiwi’s cutback.
Such was Hibs’ superiority that another goal was inevitable and it came courtesy of a fleet-footed forceful run by Dean Shiels deep into the Saints box before releasing an inch-perfect pass which Killen gratefully accepted in his stride and he clipped the ball confidently home.
St Mirren carved a goal of their own five minutes before the interval, with John Sutton holding the ball up, turning and stroking it beyond Zibi Malkowski to put Saints back in it.
It was the Edinburgh side that settled first in the second period, however, Stewart not only providing the guile but also the bite in midfield, aided and abetted by pocket dynamo Zemmama.
They restored their two-goal cushion soon after the interval. Killen was released through the centre-forward channel, dragging the ball wide to inside left and unleashing a low shot which Bullock did well to save with his legs, but, when the ball ricocheted to Shiels, the youngster coolly slid his shot home from the edge of the box.
Seven minutes later and the match was all over bar the shouting and there was much of that from the Easter Road faithful, a delightful fourth goal coming, appropriately, from Zemmama, who finished clinically from a dozen yards out from Beuzelin’s pinpoint cutback. Shiels was then substituted to a standing ovation, and, 17 minutes from time, Hibs made it five when a slide-rule pass from Zemmama split the Saints defence for substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun to drill the ball beyond Bullock.
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Martis, Jones (c), Beuzelin, Stewart, Zemmama, Shiels, Fletcher, Killen. Subs not used: McNeil, Glass, Hogg, McCluskey, McCann, Stevenson.
St Mirren: Bullock, Potter, McGowne, Broadfoot, van Zanten, Murray, Lappin, Reid, Brittain, Sutton, Mehmet. Subs not used: Smith, Millen, Brady, Maxwell, McCay, McKenna, Gemmill.
Referee: C Thomson.