Sluggishness in abundance as Hibs succumb to deserved league defeat at Fir Park
The visitors struggled to get going from the off in this cinch Premiership encounter and eventually succumbed to a deserved loss to sit second bottom of the league after two games played.
Motherwell weren’t any great shakes themselves in the opening exchanges but grew in confidence and found their reward through Conor Wilkinson’s first goal for the club. They gave themselves the cushion required in the 85th minute when impressive home debutant Mika Biereth, who had set up Wilkinson, netted his side’s second. Adam Le Fondre then netted a consolation in injury-time.
Lee Johnson admitted pre-match that he wanted to freshen things up more after the emotional intensity of the 3-1 victory over Swiss side Luzern at Easter Road fewer than 72 hours prior. However, injuries limited his options with Elie Youan and Josh Campbell unavailable for this one.
In total the Hibs boss made three changes. Martin Boyle and Le Fondre joined Youan in dropping out of the starting XI. Into the team came Christian Doidge, Jimmy Jeggo and Jordan Obita with Johnson switching to a 3-5-2 formation.
Levitt was pushed into an advanced role with Jeggo and Joe Newell sitting in behind. In the opening few minutes it looked like the summer signing would be a key figure in this contest. He won the ball back from Theo Bair and shot wide of goal from outside the area. But this would be a false dawn: Hibs didn’t register another opportunity in the first 45 minutes and Levitt was hooked at half-time.
The same went for Dylan Vente. Three days after making a dream start with a goal and an assist on his debut, he too would only last half the match following an outing which was short on incident.
Johnson gave up on his formation change at the break, going back to a 4-4-2 with Boyle and Le Fondre being introduced, but it did nothing to improve the performance.
Doidge headed over from a Lewis Miller long throw on 62 minutes. This would be the only opportunity the away side would create until stoppage time. Motherwell weren’t exactly battering their visitors, though they always looked more capable of breaking the deadlock and that happened a short time after Doidge’s header.
Lewis Stevenson was outmuscled by Biereth on the flank. He picked out Wilkinson who had been tracked initially by Jeggo. The Australian tried to hand him off to Will Fish, but not for the first time this campaign the Manchester United loanee was punished for ball-watching as Wilkinson nipped in to side-foot home.
Biereth then made it 2-0. The forward came out on top in another physical battle, this time against Fish after the defender had originally won the race for a through ball. After cutting back inside, Biereth buried his finish into the bottom corner.
The Hibs fans who stayed got something to cheer when Dan Casey was adjudged to have committed handball following a VAR check and Le Fondre smashed his penalty home. A few balls were hurled desperately into the Motherwell box after this, though no further chances arrived.