Hibs verdict: Arbroath performance can, and should, kickstart league form

For all the talk of a potential cup shock, and banana skins, Hibs ended up comfortable winners against Arbroath at a rain-lashed Gayfield.

Sunday, 13th February 2022, 3:13 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th February 2022, 3:25 pm

For a while, though, Arbroath dared to dream; Craig Wighton stabbing the ball past Matt Macey at the second attempt after his initial effort from Colin Hamilton's cross was blocked for an early opener.

Michael McKenna came close to making it two when his low effort from the edge of the area found the side-netting. Had that squeezed in it could well have been a very different game.

The soggy conditions were not conducive to the way Shaun Maloney wants his side to play football and to Hibs' credit they tried several times to zip passes along the surface but before long there was a collective acceptance that it might not be the pitch nor the location for attractive football.

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Kevin Nisbet gets in front of Ricky Little to fire Hibs into the lead at Gayfield

Seconds later Sylvester Jasper, on his first start for Hibs, sent an effort wide from a corner as the visitors began to grow into the game.

When they did equalise it was classic Maloney-ball – Lewis Stevenson floated a ball to the back post for the onrushing Demetri Mitchell to head home in front of the travelling support.

Hibs had further chances in the opening 45, Derek Gaston denying Chris Cadden with his legs before blocking a Kevin Nisbet shot from an acute angle and tipping the striker's lobbed rebound over the bar.

The hosts started the second half in much the same way as the first, and Macey had to be alert to deny Wighton and then Scott Stewart.

The Easter Road side has performed better in the second halves of recent matches and that trend continued in Angus as they cranked things up a notch. Nisbet forced Gaston into a near-post save and Mitchell smacked the side netting.

Jasper's movement was causing the Red Lichties problems in the final third and the interplay between him, Mitchell, and Stevenson on the left looked like the most likely source of another Hibs goal.

When the Scottish Premiership side did take the lead however, it came from the right, Ewan Henderson picking out Nisbet who, having seen two attempts ruled out for offside, took a touch before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.

There was no pointed celebration this time, as there had been when he netted against Cove Rangers in the previous round, and the Hibs fans behind the goal chanting his name suggests that relations between the striker and the supporters are cordial once again.

Substitute Chris Mueller was denied by Gaston as Hibs sought a third but the American had strayed into an offside position. However, he put the gloss on the scoreline with a scrambled effort three minutes from time.

There was a lot to like about this Hibs performance – they could have won by a lot more were it not for Gaston’s goalkeeping and some dogged defending.

If Maloney can get his charges playing like this in every game, it should result in scorelines more favourable than the last few weeks. They have to use this performance, at a tough venue and in ghastly conditions, as a platform. Because if a team can get a result at Gayfield, they should be capable of getting a result anywhere.

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