Moira Gordon's Hibs verdict: Actions speak louder than words - fans will be so fed up of near misses

Hibs' Paul McGinn looks on despondently as St Johnstone celebrate their win.Hibs' Paul McGinn looks on despondently as St Johnstone celebrate their win.
Hibs' Paul McGinn looks on despondently as St Johnstone celebrate their win.
Hibs manager Jack Ross had challenged his men to keep putting themselves in positions where the rewards are high. But, having done that, as they headed into their eighth semi-final in 11 cup runs, they were also well aware of the feelings that awaited them should they fail.

It was just over two months ago that they suffered the massive disappointment of losing to Hearts in last season’s delayed Scottish Cup and, in the aftermath, the players and managers had been candid about just how that stung and how they did not want to experience that anguish again. But actions matter more than words and when the time came they were not clinical enough, or resilient enough.

For that reason, this defeat will be as painful as any they have endured. Not least because they could have had it all but wrapped up long before St Johnstone figured out a way to deal with their first half onslaught.

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With none of the other so-called big hitters left in the contest, it was also a good opportunity to progress from near misses to something tangible. Instead, it is St Johnstone who delivered on the fortitude and the finishing to move one step closer to claiming the League Cup for the first time in the club’ history.

Jack Ross looks on angrily.Jack Ross looks on angrily.
Jack Ross looks on angrily.

Missed chances prove costly

Starting the match well, Hibs’ early play did not serve an accurate signpost for the direction proceedings would eventually head.

Hitting the bar and the post, their performance in possession was as good as they have produced for a long time as they pegged St Johnstone back and dictated the game.

Without Joe Newell, who had not recovered from his groin injury, Ross still had multiple options but chose to go with a 3-4-1-2 line up, tasking Chris Cadden and Josh Doig with the wing-back roles and playing Jamie Murphy in the pocket in front of Alex Gogc and Jackson Irvine and in behind the front two of Kevin Nisbet and Martin Boyle.

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Jamie Murphy missed two good chances for Hibs.Jamie Murphy missed two good chances for Hibs.
Jamie Murphy missed two good chances for Hibs.

Within the first five minutes Doig had already charged up the park and won the first corner and his athleticism and crosses continued to pose real danger.

Moving the ball about quickly, making the right runs and creating space, his team-mates looked fluid and focused. Working well as a unit, there was some really neat link up play and some crisp first-time deliveries as they swarmed the Perth defence.

However, as has been the case before this season, they were not ruthless enough.

Boyle had a shot deflected wide and then, in the 21st minute Hanlon tested the Saints rearguard with an acrobatic shot after Ryan Porteous had nodded on Boyle’s corner. Denied, Hibs retained possession and probed for another opening and it was Jamie Murphy who tried to take advantage when it did materialise. But, from close range, he was denied by Zander Cark and when he tried to then dink it over the grounded keeper from the rebound, he was thwarted by the bar.

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Jason Kerr puts St Johnstone ahead with a header.Jason Kerr puts St Johnstone ahead with a header.
Jason Kerr puts St Johnstone ahead with a header.

Boyle then set up Irvine for a glancing header that flicked just wide of the far upright and as it approached the half hour mark, Saints were making some territorial gains but it was again Hibs who came close. This time it was Hanlon who made it happen with a delightful first touch, whipping a cross in for Irvne to attack and this time it was the post that denied him.

Saints go marching on

But Hibs failure to make the most of their superiority would come back to haunt them a they were hit by a Saints suckerpunch in the 36th minute.

Former Hibee Davd Wotherspoon fired in a corner and Jason Kerr got the jump on Hanlon to bullet a header past Ofir Marciano.

It was their first proper shot on target but offering their rivals a lesson in being clinical, they made it count.

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Hibs had spent most of the first half with the foot on St Johnstone’s throat but having momentarily eased that pressure, they paid a high price.

Just four minutes after the restart, Hibs were two down, as they failed to deal with another set piece. This time it was a Craig Conway delivery and Shuan Rooney who evaded his marker to head home.

A poor reaction

It should have galvanised a Hibs side apparently intent on righting past wrongs. Instead, it knocked the fight out of them.

Ross altered things, switching to a back four but Saints still found a way through and this time Rooney was the provider, playing a low ball across the box for Conway to finish at the back post.

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That was in the 62nd minute and Hibs visibly withered, as the passing and movement that had been so slick and seamless early in the match became ragged. If Hibs lacked conviction, Saints grew in stature and belief and organised and strong, they proved a far tougher proposition.

Throwing on Kyle Magennis and Scott Allan for Gogic and Murphy was supposed to shake things up but even a mercurial midfielder such as Allan was unable to produce the kind of miracle Hibs needed at that stage.

Fans fed up of near misses

Out since August 30 with an undisclosed health issue, his return to action was one of the few positives from a game Hibs will want to forget. It is unlikely they will be allowed to, though, as fans, fed up with near misses, demand more of their stars on the biggest stages.

This was supposed to be third time lucky in their third successive semi final but instead, they again failed.

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It is one that will hurt but there will be no point in claiming that pain can fuel future success. After this, few will believe them. Actions speak louder than words.

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