Dundee - Benedictus, 21; Milne, 47; McBride 52 pen
Hibernian - Griffiths 90
Celtic having replaced Hibs as table-toppers at lunchtime – “it made no difference to us,” said Hibs manager Pat Fenlon afterwards – the Edinburgh side were anxious to keep their good run going, especially as they face Aberdeen next week in a match that might go some way to deciding who remains the main challengers to Celtic.
If they play the way they played yesterday, however, Hibs will soon be back to their bad old days. And it will not have escaped anybody’s notice down Paisley way that, having taken seven points out of a possible nine in November, Dundee are just one point behind St Mirren in the relegation zone, and they face the Buddies next week.
“There’s a long way to go and we will concentrate on what we are doing,” said Dundee manager Barry Smith afterwards. “We’ll concentrate on us picking up points and not be looking at anybody else.”
His men showed plenty of fighting spirit from the kick-off, and Ryan McGivern had to head a dangerous Matt Lockwood free-kick behind for a corner as early as the third minute.
Steven Milne was proving troublesome to the Hibs defence early doors, and continued to do so all through the match until he was substituted to a standing ovation in the 80th minute. He might have scored after just 11 minutes, when Paul Hanlon and his goalkeeper Ben Williams had a tower of Babel moment, each failing to understand what the other was up to, allowing Milne to break free for goal although the ball beat him over the byline.
It was a tight game at this point, play compressed into a third of the pitch as both back fours tried to press upfield.
David Wotherspoon began a good move for Hibs after ten minutes which ended with Leigh Griffiths’ shot being deflected just wide.
There was almost a touch of Zlatan Ibrahimovic about Nicky Riley’s 30-yard volley which just went wide, and the great Swedish striker would himself have been proud of the goal that opened the scoring after 21 minutes. Jim McAlister’s corner was cleared by Lewis Stevenson into what appeared to be a safe area where Kyle Benedictus collected the ball. Hibs no doubt thought the big defender was no danger from 25 yards out, but he whirled round and struck an unstoppable left-foot shot high past Williams from an angled position.
“I’ve not even seem him do that in training,” said manager Smith, who jokingly added: “The boys are saying it was a cross.”
It was a superb goal, and no more than Dundee merited, though had Wotherspoon kept his head after jinking past two defenders he might have scored an equally good goal instead of sending his shot wide.
At the other end Milne perhaps should have had a penalty after 41 minutes when he broke into the box and was felled by Tom Taiwo. Referee Brian Colvin, who had a fine game, indicated that the Hibs player had got the ball first.
Right on the stroke of half-time. McAlister’s cross found Iain Davidson on his own in the box, but he headed just wide.
Dundee were not be denied, however, and put the game to bed within seven minutes of the restart. Less than two minutes into the half, Declan Gallagher headed Lockwood’s free kick across goal where Milne bundled the ball across the line. Colvin seemed to take the word of assistant referee Billy Baxter that the ball had crossed the line, but once again the case for goal-line technology was irresistibly made.
And Dundee clinched the points after 52 minutes when former Hibs man Colin Nish broke into the area and went down under a challenge from Alan Maybury, who was duly booked. It was left to another former Hibs player, Kevin McBride, to lash the ball past Williams.
Hibs tried manfully to come back into the game, Douglas parrying a Griffiths free-kick with Gallagher completing the save, and then the goalkeeper foiled Griffiths by himself two minutes later.
Dundee’s organisation and discipline, though, prevented Hibs from manufacturing many clear-cut opportunities. Griffiths was their main threat and was unlucky when a diving header went over the bar. The in-form striker did earn some reward for his efforts as he drove home a late 25-yard shot.
“We had a great deal of energy and tried to play them high up,” said Barry Smith. “We’re pleased with the overall performance.”
Fenlon said: “We haven’t had a performance like that all season and the players know they have let themselves and the supporters down.”