GOALS from captain Rob Jones and Derek Riordan brought St Mirren’s unbeaten run to an end, giving Hibs a much-needed win after their Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Capital rivals Hearts.
Hibs hadn’t won in five prior to this fixture, with this victory their first of 2009 easing the pressure on boss Mixu Paatelainen.
It was far from the Easter Road outfit’s best performance of the season but in the circumstances victory was the only concern.
Former Hearts striker Dennis Wyness squandered the first opening of the game for Saints before Riordan brought out the best in Buddies goalkeeper Mark Howard who threw himself full-length to push away a long-range shot from the Hibs striker.
Goalie Howard did well again to touch over a netbound effort from Steven Thicot but from the resulting corner Hibs struck, defender Jones rising to glance home Riordan’s superbly delivered cross with 13 minutes on the clock.
Jones’ goal did much to sooth the nerves of a home support still suffering from that Scottish Cup defeat on home soil but, with an unbeaten run of six matches, Saints weren’t easily knocked out of their stride.
The Paisley outfit continued to enjoy the bulk of possession without causing Hibs goalkeeper Grzegorz Szamotulski too many problems and it was the Edinburgh club which went closest to scoring again, Lewis Stevenson embarking on a tremendous 50-yard run only to see his shot drift wide of the target.
John Rankin also went close from a Colin Nish knockdown before Sol Bamba warmed the hands of Howard with a thunderous right-foot effort which the goalkeeper managed to beat away. Good work from Garry Brady presented Andy Dorman with Saints’ best chance of the first half but the midfielder’s shot was weak and well off target.
Rankin earned Hibs the first opening of the second half as he picked off Hugh Murray’s pass deep inside the Saints half but, with Riordan well-placed, he elected to go alone, sending his shot well wide.
Scott Cuthbert came up with a perfectly timed tackle to deny Jonatan Johansson as Rankin threaded an inch-perfect pass into his path before home keeper Szamotulski was twice called into action, the Pole safely gathering a deflected shot from Jack Ross and then thrusting out his right hand to push away Cuthbert’s netbound header. And Hibs needed the safe hands of Szamotulski again in the 67th minute, the goalkeeper diving to his left to touch away a low effort from Wyness.
A blustery wind wasn’t helping either set of players but the Hibs fans were becoming increasinly anxious, realising Paatelainen’s players needed a second goal to secure the three points. That much was emphasised as Dorman found himself with all the space and time in the world deep inside Hibs penalty area but again wasted the opening as he took the ball onto his right foot and blazed over.
Craig Dargo thought he’d hauled Saints level with nine minutes remaining, wheeling to drive in a rising shot which beat Szamotulski but not Jones who was perfectly positioned behind his goalkeeper to head the ball to safety on the line. The home support, however, were able to breathe easily with six minutes remaining as substitutes Joe Keenan and Ross Chisholm combined, the latter laying the ball off to Riordan who cut onto his right foot and curled it in off the left-hand post for Hibs’ second goal.
Hibs: Szamotulski, McCormack, Hogg, Jones, Stevenson, Johansson, Bamba, Thicot, Rankin, Riordan, Nish.