Ratings from Hibs v Killie - as Monty's men get badly needed 'ugly win'
Few standouts on a day of effort over artistry
That ugly win everyone was almost wishing into existence? The scrappy, scruffy, don’t-care-about-the-performance victory so often mentioned as the panacea to all that ails a team in a slump?
This was the very epitome of that for a Hibs side relieved to have broken a seven-game winless streak – despite one of the least convincing performances since Nick Montgomery’s arrival two months ago.
Monty’s men get credit for showing grit and gumption. And for not letting the three points slip once they got themselves in front; putting an end to that recurring failing will go a long way to changing the fortunes of a team who have now climbed to seventh in the Scottish Premiership.
But the home fans who groaned and griped their way through a cold afternoon at Easter Road, while understanding the value of the victory, are unlikely to cherish warm memories of a contest that ought to have come with a trigger warning for anyone with a love of good football.
Josh Campbell’s second goal in as many games, continuing the scoring form struck in his first start under Montgomery in Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw with St Mirren, saw Hibs carve out a precious lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.
And that was virtually the end of the entertainment on a day which promised little … then lived down to expectations.
In a first half of almost entirely unrelenting brutality, not least for punters reduced to wondering when any of the 22 professionals on the pitch might start allowing each other to play a bit of football, it often felt as if actual passing sequences were getting in the way of all the stoppages, nudges, niggles and off-the-ball fouls.
Hibs were not coping well with the high-intensity approach of visitors keen to play for territory and squeeze their hosts high up the pitch.
Still, they did create a couple of decent opportunities even before the opener, with Jair Tavares close to hitting the target following a lovely bit of skill 20 yards from goal inside the opening three minutes.
Martin Boyle saw a ‘goal’ disallowed for offside – with no lengthy VAR delay this time, at least – and the Socceroos star then went down under a Stuart Findlay challenge in the penalty box that might have merited a review by the video officials, with the forward clean through on the keeper and unlikely to simply go down by his own accord.
Boyle was heavily involved in the opener, too, scampering through the middle of the Killie ranks and eluding a scything Liam Donnelly challenge to play in Campbell, whose low finish beyond Will Dennis demonstrated real composure.
The introduction of Elie Youan early in the second half added something different to the Hibs attack, the tireless but luckless Dylan Vente making way as Campbell was pushed up alongside Boyle.
And there were brief inklings of the passing game that had been such a hallmark of Hibs during those promising early days of the Montgomery era, when the new manager bounce seemed to put a spring in everyone’s step.
Tavares forced a full stretch save from Dennis with a rasping low shot 20 minutes from time, while Campbell also stung the keeper’s palms with a thumping effort.
But the overall impression was of a tired team. A weary group who, with certain notable exceptions, should be allowed to rest up during the international break.