A straightforward, no-nonsense demolition of Cowdenbeath by a Hibs side which dominated from first minute to last is how this match will be recalled.
But for Callum Booth and Lewis Stevenson it will be a day to remember, one on which the Easter Road full backs, not noted for their goals, both got their names on the scoresheet, each claiming only their third for the Capital club.
Coincidentally, their first strikes also came on the same day, Booth and then Stevenson scoring as Hibs dispatched Inverness Caley almost four years ago – so it was little wonder their team-mates celebrated both of the late goals scored rather more enthusiastically than they might have given this was a match they’d won in a canter, the points having been secured long beforehand.
That it was something out of the ordinary was acknowledged by Stevenson, who has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour, Hibs’ longest serving player claiming he’d almost heard the crowd laughing as his low shot zipped into the bottom corner of Cowdenbeath goalkeeper Robbie Thomson’s net.
Stevenson’s record of just three goals in 247 matches makes Booth, who’d spent the previous two seasons on loan at Livingston and then Raith Rovers, almost look like a goal machine, his trio having come in a more respectable 45 matches for Hibs, the first just 39 days after his debut while his team-made had to wait almost six years to break his duck.
However, amid the good- natured banter to which Stevenson and Booth were subjected by their colleagues, their goals underlined the adventurous approach adopted by head coach Alan Stubbs, the 42 scored so far already eclipsing the paltry 31 claimed in last season’s disastrous campaign.
Admittedly it has been achieved a tier down but Stevenson revealed: “I never think I have a chance of scoring, but we are encouraged to get forward and I have probably been in the opposition box more this season than any other although the three I’ve scored have all come from outside the area. I actually think we’ve played better this season and only drawn games – but we won fairly comfortably, we took our chances and that was the difference.”
While Hibs may have gone into this match confident of recording a third successive win over the Blue Brazil, they’d have done so conscious of the fact both previous victories had been by a single-goal margin, the first after they’d been forced to come from 2-1 down at home.
The Fife side, however, were far less resolute this time round as Stubbs’ players clocked up their biggest win of the season to close the gap on second-placed Rangers to five points, partially making up for having thrown away a two-goal lead against Falkirk seven days earlier. Later learning that the Bairns and Queen of the South, both breathing down their neck in that race for a play-off place, had drawn was an extra bonus but one which Stubbs quickly dismissed saying: “There’s no point worrying about what Hearts, Rangers, Falkirk, Queen of the South, all the other teams [do] – we have to concentrate on ourselves.
“Over the last few months we have done that and I am really happy with where we are, this was a good result for us.”
If events against Falkirk had raised questions they were quickly answered as Hibs took this match by the throat, Paul Hanlon turning the ball home after Thomson had failed to deal with a Scott Allan corner before Jason Cummings took his tally to six in five and 12 all told, after Dylan McGeouch and Allan had combined to leave him with no more than a tap-in.
Thomson then twice denied the 19-year-old with two decent saves during a period in which the game went somewhat flat, Hibs comfortable and Cowdenbeath unable to make any impact.
At times, though, such a scenario can prove problematical to Hibs, games in which they’ve been in command and apparently holding an unassailable lead – as in the case of Falkirk – but have allowed the opposition to gain a foothold.
Cowdenbeath were unable to do so and just as you could sense the home fans becoming a tad restless at not seeing their side press home their advantage, Scott Robertson brought them to life, the midfielder negotiating his way through a clutch of tackles and just managing to keep his feet as he slid the ball beyond Thomson and into the far corner of the net.
Then it was over to Booth and Stevenson, the former side-footing substitute Sam Stanton’s inviting low cross home and the latter drilling in a low shot from 20 yards.
Five different scorers took to 17 the number of Hibs players who have found the net but for Stubbs a clean sheet was almost as pleasing. He said: “It was a comfortable afternoon, but I think we made it that way.
“We’ve seen earlier in the season results can sometimes be difficult when we are at home because teams come and make it really hard for us. But I thought we were good, when we had chances to score we took them and I thought we were in control all afternoon.
“I was disappointed with the goals we conceded against Falkirk, not necessarily the performance, but as a defender myself I was delighted more with the clean sheet than anything. But to score five at home and keep a clean sheet makes it a good day all round.”
An added bonus for Stubbs was being able to give Jordon Forster the final 12 minutes, the centre back having only resumed full training on Thursday having suffered a broken foot in October and then requiring emergency surgery to remove his appendix just as he was on the point of making his return.
Forster’s introduction saw Hibs go three at the back with Stevenson and Booth, who looked more comfortable operating on the left than the right as he rampaged up and down the touchline, moving to operate as wing backs and the reward that brought each of them.
Stubbs, who’d lost new signing Franck Dja Djedje to a hamstring problem, said: “Jordon’s return wasn’t planned but with Franck unavailable it was an opportunity to put him on the bench. Then with us being 3-0 up and in control there was the chance to give him ten or 15 minutes.”