Hibs 3, Arbroath 0. Hibs are convincing winners in the Betfred Cup
Hibs moved into pole position to qualify for the knockout stages of the Betfred Cup with an accomplished win over Arbroath which left them knowing victory against Elgin City in Friday night’s televised match from Borough Briggs will see them top Group C.
The Red Lichties had beaten the Easter Road outfit in their first pre-season friendly barely three weeks ago but both Paul Heckingbottom and his Gayfield Park counterpart Dick Campbell had immediately predicted this second encounter would be an entirely different affair.
And so it proved as Hibs turned in their most accomplished performance thus far, displaying an appetite and desire which had previously been lacking as they dominated virtually from first minute to last.
Flo Kamberi had them ahead within three minutes with a deadly finish with Scott Allan underlining their superiority as he doubled their lead from the penalty spot a minute before half-time.
And substitute Fraser Murray added a deserved third in the dying minutes, the youngster timing his run perfectly to deflect Daryl Horgan’s low cross into the net.
Perhaps the only disappointment might have been that they didn’t go on to record a more emphatic win - although Oli Shaw was denied by an offside flag ten minutes from time - but Heckingbottom would undoubtedly have been much happier with what he had seen, signs of a side coming together and fitness levels obviously on the rise.
Hibs’ previous two Betfred Cup matches, away to Stirling Albion and home to Alloa Athletic, had been characterised by slow starts, but that certainly wasn’t the case in this instance with Heckingbottom’s side ahead within three minutes.
And it was Scott Allan, at the centre of so many good things during his previous two spells at Easter Road, who was once again pulling the strings, the midfielder releasing a superb reverse pass which allowed Kamberi to steady himself before drilling a low shot beyond Arbroath goalkeeper Darren Jamieson and into the far corner of his net.
Heckingbottom had made six changes to the side which eventually overcame Alloa at the weekend, affording a sparse crowd their first look at his latest signing Josh Vela.
But that extensive overhaul appeared to have had a galvanising effect on the Capital outfit who looked lively and energetic in the late evening sunshine, playing more akin to the style their head coach has been promising.
Hibs were very much playing the game at their pace, dictating proceedings and if a second goal didn’t immediately come - Stevie Mallan and then Martin Boyle firing shots into Jamieson’s midriff - they’d surely have been thinking of the draining effect that would be having on their part-time opponents, particularly given the sweltering heat.
They did, though, double their lead a minute before the interval, Martin Boyle clipping the ball over the head of Thomas O’Brien before delivering a cross which was met by a spectacular overhead kick from Kamberi.
But as it zipped inches over, referee Bobby Madden spotted that Boyle had been flattened by the Arbroath defender as he released the ball and awarded a penalty, Allan stepping up to send Jamieson the wrong way.
It was just what Hibs needed coming in the final minute of the first half but they restarted where they had left off, Allan embarking on a 50 yard run which ended with an audacious chip which drifted just wide before Jamieson was almost caught out by a long-range effort from Mallan, the goalkeeper happy just to slap the ball wide.
Jamieson managed to get a hand to an Adam Jackson header before the Hibs defender rose again to nod just over as the home side sought to turn the screw.
Such had been Hibs dominance Arbroath’s first real threat came past the hour mark, Jackson failing to cut out James Murphy’s corner but Colin Hamilton couldn’t get the ball on target.
Understandably, the pace had dropped somewhat as the game moved into the last 20 minutes by which time Vela, who hadn’t played since March, had been replaced by Fraser Murray but the former Bolton Wanderers’ midfielder would have been happy with his contribution.
Shaw thought he had added to those two earlier goals when Kamberi’s misdirected header fell at his feet, the youngster instinctively drilling the ball into the net only to see the offside flag raised against him.
Hibs, though, weren’t to be denied a third goal, Murray ghosting in to meet fellow substitute Horgan’s cross to turn the ball into the net to complete a satisfactory evening’s work for the city side.
Hibs: Maxwell, James, Jackson, Hanlon, Mackie, Boyle (Horgan 78), Mallan, Vela (F Murray 59), Newell (Shaw 78), Allan, Kamberi.
Substitutes not used: Marciano, Whittaker, Doidge, McGregor.
Arbroath: Jamieson, Thomson, Wilson, O’Brien, Hamilton, McKenna, Whatley (Kader 59), Gold, Murphy, Linn (Stewart 46), Doris (Spence 59).
Substitutes not used: Gaston, Little, Swankie.
Referee: Bobby Madden.