That both came from the right foot of Jake Doyle-Hayes was lighting-striking-twice territory. The quiet Irishman doubled his career tally inside half an hour against Ross County as the former St Mirren man stole the show to fire Hibs to a priceless first league win of 2022.
With football being a results business, a scrappy 1-0 win with the winner being scrambled home amid a post-corner stramash would have sufficed but a bit of a cushion and a promising second-half showing, coupled with two bits of magic from Doyle-Hayes put the gloss on the scoreline.
Shaun Maloney had stressed the importance of playing with the same mentality and desire as seen in the goalless Edinburgh derby with Hearts, and the 3-1 Scottish Cup fifth-round victory at Arbroath but the first half was sadly lacking in both.
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Save for a few Chris Cadden runs down the right that ultimately came to nothing there was little to write home about from a Hibs point of view. Ross County striker Jordan White earned a booking for a rather desperate tumble in the box that referee Steven McLean viewed as simulation while the same player passed up the visitors’ best chance of the game when he delicately lobbed the ball into Matt Macey’s arms when he should have given the ‘keeper more to think about.
Hibs are making progress, but incrementally so at the moment. The pattern is of a listless first half followed up by a more fired-up second period. Whisper it, but losing a goal so early on against Arbroath probably eked out more of a performance across the whole game.
It was much the same against the Staggies but crucially, there was no setback from which Hibs had to recover. The hosts came fleeing out the traps at the start of the second period and took the lead quickly, Josh Campbell feeding the ball back to Doyle-Hayes whose effort from distance flew into the net although County goalie Ross Laidlaw may feel he could have done better given he got two hands to it.
Regan Charles-Cook and Ross Callachan then had sight of goal, the former testing Macey with a shot from range and Callachan blasting wide.
Ewan Henderson saw a powerful effort saved well by Laidlaw before the former Hibs ‘keeper then denied Ryan Porteous from the resultant corner.
Twelve minutes from time Doyle-Hayes struck again, taking a Jack Baldwin clearance on his chest and hitting a dipping volley into the back of the net. There would be no late equaliser for County this time.
Hibs will have better days at Easter Road in terms of overall performance but the importance of this win cannot be underestimated.
The three points were secured in the absence of six first-team players, with two of the club’s under-18 squad on the bench, and stalwart Lewis Stevenson filling in at centre-back after performing well in central midfield.
Hibs had twice passed up the chance to go fourth prior to this game. Third time lucky it may be but this was another step forward under Maloney – the key now is consistency and doing it across the 90 minutes.