It doesn’t bear thinking about how another Hampden loss would have impacted this Hibs team, and Jack Ross, who has endured repeated questions about his big-game credentials.
Hibs answered a few of their critics at the national stadium yesterday, managing what they couldn’t in the first two trips: a goal in the first half, and a clean sheet. Even when Dundee United rallied Matt Macey was there to deny Lawrence Shankland.
There has been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde element to the Easter Road side this season; often devastating when they take the lead, and unable to recover if they fall behind. It’s why getting that first goal has been so crucial.
But it was about more than just the first goal. There were huge performances across the park. Melker Hallberg, in his first start since January, strolled it in the midfield. Jackson Irvine alongside him banished the ghosts of his last appearance in G42 with a commanding performance that included an assist.
The defence, which has had its moments this term despite being much improved on last season, kept a clean sheet.
The front three linked up again and again to devastating effect.
Hibs can head to Aberdeen on Wednesday with a cup final on the horizon, and a spring in their step – and a great chance of securing third.
Player of the match
Take your pick. Kevin Nisbet put in probably his best performance of 2021 to date, Hallberg had the cigars out in midfield, Christian Doidge, Martin Boyle… there wasn’t a weak link in green and white.
Nisbet’s opener. Given he’d just put one wide, and how Hibs capitulated despite dominating the bulk of the first half in their last trip to Hampden, the sense of relief when his shot nestled in the net was palpable.
Bobby Madden dished out a few cards, waved away a couple of half-hearted penalty claims, and can be happy with his display.
In case you missed it…
When Boyle was upended in the midst of a mazy run, Hibs were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. If the referee had played advantage, Doidge almost certainly would have scored a third.