Hibernian’s season took a sharp turn into crisis territory on an awful afternoon at a near-empty Easter Road, as Nick Montgomery’s men suffered a humiliating 3-0 home defeat to St Mirren. The few fans still on the premises at full-time made their feelings all too clear. There could be no room for confusion.
Less than five months into the gig, Montgomery finds himself the subject of demands that he be removed from his post. If that seems ridiculous, a little over-reaction is understandable, in the circumstances.
Because this was bad. Horribly bad. Easily the worst performance of Monty’s time at the helm. And it left Hibs, already on a fairly flat trajectory, venturing into a very dangerous area.
With a wounded Celtic up next at Easter Road on Wednesday night, then Inverness away in the Scottish Cup to follow next weekend, there will be no respite. The only hope is that Hibs cannot possibly be this bad, this ineffective, again.
An Alex Gogic header after just seven minutes, a Greg Kiltie penalty and a Mikael Mandron free header from a corner put the visitors into a deserved 3-0 lead at the break. St Mirren were well worth an advantage that might even have been bigger.
Not because Stephen Robinson’s men had been overly brilliant. But because, during an absolutely brutal first half, Easter Road regulars were ‘treated’ to one of the worst performances by a home side since … well, just fill in your own frame of reference based on age and experience.
To describe the efforts of Monty’s men as weak would be to do a disservice to the puny. To call them unconvincing would be an insult to the most obvious con artist. No wonder they were booed off at half-time.
Any hope, optimism, blind faith or wilful suspension of disbelief generated by Hibs being busy in the January market did not take long to evaporate. With seven minutes gone, talk about the seven new signings turning this season around was made to feel like a bleak joke.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, Hibs fans. A free-kick into the box, a second phase of possession lost, another ball into the box – and a defender nodding home as a reward for staying up at a set piece. As bad a start as you could imagine.
When a bouncing ball struck the arm of new centre-half Nectar Triantis inside the box just after the half-hour mark, the crisis deepened. Kiltie sending David Marshall the wrong way felt like a formality.
An already mutinous mood turned darker still as St Mirren, having passed up a couple of decent chances to extend their lead, made it 3-0 just before half-time. An in-swinging corner from the right found Mandron unmarked at the back post.
Booing while they marched towards the exits, the Hibs support delivered a damning verdict that was entirely appropriate. A more hot-headed manager might have decided to make five substitutions on the spot, forcing some he worst offenders to make a walk of shame in front of the baying mob. Monty settled for making three changes at half-time.
The team returned to face a lot of empty seats at the start of the second half. Those who remained could be classified as either hopeless optimists or masochists in need of help; some football fans seem to enjoy the hurt.
They at least saw Hibs make an attempt to get themselves back into the game, Montgomery throwing on all five subs and hurling bodies forward. Too little, far too late. And it didn’t really have the visitors troubled. The fury of the couple of thousand left at full-time testified to that.