Hibs verdict: Jack Ross's men look hungrier but stubborn St Johnstone refuse to feed their ambitions
Hibs threw everything at St Johnstone in the second half of this match but there was a dogged resistance in the home ranks that Jack Ross’ men just could not break down.
Unable to peg their hosts back after they opened up a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from former Hibee Liam Craig they allowed Aberdeen to draw a point closer to them in the race for third place.
But the overriding feeling will be one of frustration rather than despondency as Hibs spent large periods of the match camped out in the Betfred Cup champions’ half, probing and prodding but persistently and stubbornly rebuffed.
Beaten by a composed and cultured finish by Craig, who was the fortunate recipient of a Josh Doig clearance, played to him about 20 yards out and in a central area, Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano took on the role of infrequent participant and then spectator as the match progressed and the away side began to dominate.
The home side’s exertions, in seeing out three games in six days, one of the them a victorious cup final undoubtedly undermined them but winning silverware had also galvanised their self-belief and make it impossible for Hibs to make the breakthrough, no matter how hard the Leith side tried.
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Hibs had switched up the side that had looked lethargic in defeat to Motherwell last week. Doig returned to the line-up, along with Kevin Nisbet, who was making his first start in six games, Ryan Porteous and Alex Gogic. They replaced Lewis Stevenson, Christin Doidge, Darren McGregor and Jamie Murphy.
As well as the three points on offer there was also the chance to prove themselves against a side who had bettered them at Hampden the last time they met, in the semi-final of the League Cup.
But it was the Perth side who again stole a march, when Callum Booth's 16th minute cross wasn't dealt with emphatically enough and Craig took a touch and a minute to pick the spot and delivered a curling left foot shot into the bottom far corner of Marciano’s net.
The only moment that separated the sides at the break. Hibs could have drawn level by then. Moving the ball quicker and slicker than last week, the capital side had pieced together a sweeping move down the right before the ball was played inside and Joe Newell found space to have a dig but he pulled the shot wide
Jackson Irvine’s headers were also just not good enough to panic Zander Clark. Nor was Paul Hanlon’s but the steady stream of chances put a wearying St Johnstone on the back foot as the majority of the second period was played out in their half.
Hibs took a more direct route and sent Christian Doidge on to add to the attacking options and he was twice denied by the home keeper.
Putting their bodies on the line as the ball pin-balled around the area, making blocks and tackles - the most notable coming from Craig who slid in to make a last-man challenge on Nisbet when the striker was through on goal - the home side held on.
Doig had another near miss and then, with the last action of the game, it was Paul McGinn who was foiled by another brave block.