St Johnstone 0, Hibs 1: Late Josh Campbell goal earns Hibees opening-day win
A late Josh Campbell goal gave Hibs an opening-day victory against ten-man St Johnstone in Perth.
The midfielder, on as a substitute for Chris Cadden in the final 15 minutes, bundled the ball in at the back post from a Ewan Henderson corner on 90 minutes to give Lee Johnson victory in his first league match in charge.
But the real talking point from a fairly bad-tempered game was the red card shown to Saints captain Murray Davidson shortly before the hour mark.
Referee Euan Anderson took advice from both his assistant and the fourth official before giving the midfielder his marching orders for a lunge on Ryan Porteous – but there was fury from the home fans when the official only cautioned Hibs debutant Marijan Čabraja for a similarly industrial challenge on Ryan McGowan.
Hibs deserved the points with the hosts offering little in attack, but the visitors arguably should have been ahead in the first half.
The first real chance for Hibs fell to Nohan Kenneh, who hit a cushioned shot narrowly over from the edge of the ‘D’ while Theo Bair was first to try his luck for the hosts but his effort from range lacked power and accuracy.
Hibs fans appealed for a penalty when Henderson went down in the box under McGowan’s challenge but the referee wasn’t interested and the player didn’t claim too earnestly for a spot-kick.
Henderson had a glorious opportunity to grab the opener with 26 minutes gone when Čabraja picked him out with a pinpoint cross from the left but he volleyed wide from close range.
Joe Newell then played in Jair Tavares but despite the winger sending two Saints defenders to the shops, he blazed his effort over.
Both teams started the second half at breakneck speed, ex-Hibee Jamie Murphy heading just wide from a Drey Wright cross and the head of Youan deflecting a Čabraja shot just over the bar.
Graham Carey nearly fashioned a chance for Bair but Rocky Bushiri did just enough to put the Canadian striker off his stride and clear.
Just shy of the hour mark Davidson was given his marching orders but on another day the Saints skipper might have just seen yellow.
On 66 minutes David Marshall was at full stretch to push away a Carey effort from distance, his first real involvement in the game.
Johnson made a host of changes in a bid to turn one point into three with a return to action for Demi Mitchell and Christian Doidge joining the attack, and his decisions would later pay off.
Hibs came close to an opener with a little over a quarter of an hour to play. Newell headed a deflected effort back towards substitute Doidge but St Johnstone centre-back Alex Mitchell threw himself in the way to clear for a corner.
The visitors kept pouring forwards, winning a series of corners as the home side threw themselves in front of shots and loose balls.
Then, with time ticking down, Henderson’s corner to the back post was met by a flurry of bodies with the ball ending up in the net and Campbell wheeling away in celebration.