Hibs 0, Ross County 2: Staggies out of relegation zone after straightforward win at Hibs
Goals from George Harmon and Alex Iacovitti gave Ross County a deserved 2-0 victory over a lacklustre Hibs side on Tuesday night.
On a night when Aberdeen fell to defeat at Livingston, the Easter Road were unable to take advantage in the race for third and failed to really trouble their Highland visitors, who climb out of the relegation zone after their win on the road.
Lee Johnson made two changes to his side, one enforced, as he introduced Elias Melkersen in place of Kyle Magennis, who had tweaked a hamstring, and brought in Demi Mitchell for his first start of the season with Marijan Čabraja replacing him on the bench. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, he lasted just 39 minutes before making way for Lewis Stevenson but prior to going off he did set up Mykola Kukharevych for one of Hibs’ more promising chances of the opening period.
Hibs started strongly, not unlike Friday night at Pittodrie against Aberdeen, but it fizzled out rapidly. Melkersen was bright in attack but unable to test Ross Laidlaw while Kukharevych, searching for a fourth consecutive goal, broke his streak and was hooked at half-time.
Shortly before the break the visitors took the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Hibs failed to clear a corner and Yan Dhanda’s cross was flicked in by Harmon at the near post. The Capital club were undone by weak defending of set-pieces in the north-east, and it was their downfall again here.
Johnson made two half-time changes, bringing on Josh Campbell and Élie Youan for Nohan Kenneh and Kukharevych and changing his shape to a back four, with Ryan Porteous taking up a slightly unfamiliar role at right-back in front of watching Scotland manager Steve Clarke.
Hibs did look sharper initially but Rocky Bushiri’s effort after Laidlaw made a hames of dealing with a cross was tame and straight at the goalkeeper and a stretching Ewan Henderson was unable to get on the end of Youan’s inviting low cross.
Porteous was next to try his luck, stinging Laidlaw’s palms with a fierce effort from 25 yards but it never looked like troubling the former Easter Road custodian. Hibs continued to huff and puff without really making much happen in the final third. Crosses were overhit, passes mishit, balls not read.
Many of the Hibs fans who had resisted the temptation to make an early exit had their minds made up with 12 minutes remaining. Harmon turned provider from the left, laying the ball back to the edge of the penalty area where Iacovitti had meandered forwards to join the attack and, unmarked, side-footed home from around 12 yards.
Hibs continued to pour forwards without much cohesion and in the end were reduced to launching long balls forward. But with Kukharevych sitting on the bench it was to no avail and the game petered out with County sitting deep and repelling everything Hibs threw at them.
Johnson’s predecessor Shaun Maloney suffered from not having Martin Boyle in his squad and although the attacker should return to club action after Australia’s participation in the World Cup, Hibs sorely miss his presence and pace in the final third. Johnson’s immediate task is identifying a way of getting three points at Rugby Park on Saturday without the 29-year-old’s talismanic properties.