Hibs sunshine boys dazzle in foggy farewell - ratings from Motherwell win

Team-mates win big for Hanlon and Stevenson in final home outing

Gathered in the freezing fog to honour a couple of genuine Hibs legends, the under-achieving class of 2023-24 at least managed to generate a little spiritual sporting sunshine on cold night in Leith. Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson, making their final home appearances after a combined run of over 1100 games in green and white, could have no complaints about their team-mates failing to deliver a fitting farewell.

As part of the bigger picture at a club now without a manager, but with new sporting director Malky Mackay in attendance, a 3-0 battering of mediocre Motherwell means very little; if only they’d manage to see off the Steelmen in Lanarkshire a few weeks’ back, how different this campaign might have been. But a win is a win. And it felt like a victory delivered specifically for, and by, the two extremely unassuming VIPs given places in the starting XI by caretaker boss David Gray.

The details? A Myziane Maolida penalty, his 10th goal since arriving late in the January window, and a Martin Boyle finish – his first since February - put Hibs into a commanding position at half-time. Boyle got a second to make it 3-0 early in the second half, all but guaranteeing that Stevenson and Hanlon would bow out on a high.

At the dog end of a dismal season that few will remember with anything approaching fondness, the chance to get together and celebrate memories of happier times offered Hibs fans sweet release. Even one or two of the visiting Motherwell supporters showed their appreciation for two brilliant servants to Scottish football.

In terms of actual entertainment, well, plenty in attendance might have been grateful for the rolling banks of freezing fog that swept in during an opening half hour of limited wit and invention. On a night hour when many expected to get all misty-eyed over the departure of two club legends, being unable to see very clearly was no great hindrance to enjoyment.

As has been the case for many months now, Hibs were almost good from the off. Very nearly incisive in attack. Close to being effective in defence, even if that wasn’t too difficult against a very one-dimensional Motherwell team.

A Joe Newell volley with 31 minutes on the clock generated some genuine excitement, forcing Liam Kelly – watched by Scotland goalkeeper coach Chris Woods – into a fine save. A Martin Boyle shot moments later beat Kelly via a deflection, only to hit the post.

The breakthrough came when Maolida flicked the ball against the arm of Stephen O’Donnell to win a penalty late in the first half. After Stevenson declined the offer to take the spot kick, in a typically self-effacing gesture, Maolida’s stutter step sent Kelly the wrong way – and Hibs were ahead.

Five minutes later, Hibs were two up thanks to a brilliant bit of passing football, Newell playing the killer ball down the left wing for Maolida to chase. The Comoros international not only kept the ball alive, but dug out a dinked cross that found Boyle, whose scuffed finish was good enough to beat Kelly in dramatic slow-motion style.

Boyle found the net again just after half-time, cutting in from the right and scoring with his left at the near post. Theo Bair had a goal disallowed for offside and, in fairness to Motherwell, they did throw bodies forward in pursuit of a comeback.

After months and months of late concessions and dramatic collapses, however, Hibs finally demonstrated an ability to see the game out. Exactly the sort of tribute likely to be appreciated most by the men of honour.

There was time, of course, for Hanlon to have a header cleared off the line - and to make a dramatic recovery challenge applauded heartily, even if the offside flag did go up belatedly. Before both were subbed in injury time, to an ovation that will live long in the memory of all who were here.