St Mirren 0, Hibs 1: David Gray gets interim spell off to winning start as Ewan Henderson opens Hibs account
Ewan Henderson’s first goal for Hibs gave David Gray a 1-0 victory over St Mirren in his first match in interim charge following Shaun Maloney’s dismissal.
Henderson scored the only goal of the game with around 15 minutes remaining, with Hibs holding on for three points and surviving a scare when Scott Tanser rattled the crossbar.
It wasn’t a classic encounter but as Gray himself said earlier this week, football is a results business and it’s the outcome of games that matters most.
The interim manager made just one enforced change to his starting team at a sunny SMiSA Stadium, with the suspended Ryan Porteous dropping out and Elias Melkersen coming into the starting line-up to partner James Scott in attack.
Other than that it was as-you-were for the Hibees from last weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts with the 33-year-old resisting the urge to make too many changes in the wake of Shaun Maloney’s departure.
Gray was, however, forced into an early change with Chris Cadden forced off with a knock and Josh Doig entering the fray in his place.
There was little in the way of clear-cut chances in the first period. Scott shot high and wide from distance in the opening five minutes and substitute Jay Henderson, another injury replacement after Richard Tait was unable to continue, dragged a shot wide from just outside the area.
Eamonn Brophy was involved in two Buddies chances in quick success around the half-hour mark, flicking on Henderson’s cross in the direction of Curtis Main with Paul McGinn clearing the danger off the line with Matt Macey beaten.
Brophy then got his head to a Tanser cross from the left that Macey gathered comfortably.
The second period began with the striker leaving the field of play having picked up an injury with Alex Grieve replacing him.
Both sides huffed and puffed but were restricted to half-hearted attempts from distance until Scott headed straight at Jak Alnwick for Hibs’ first shot on target on 67 minutes after Doig picked him out with an inch-perfect cross.
Gray brought on Chris Mueller for Melkersen in a bid to freshen things up in attack and with 16 minutes remaining Hibs took the lead. Harry Clarke did well to win a long ball forward and played in Ewan Henderson, who sent a composed finish past Alnwick to break the deadlock and notch his first goal in Hibs colours.
The Buddies could have equalised just minutes later but Tanser’s effort thundered back off the bar with Macey beaten.
Sylvester Jasper and Josh Campbell came on for the final few minutes replacing Scott, who had picked up a knock, and Henderson.
Jasper and Campbell nearly combined for a second goal in injury time after the on-loan Fulham man sped past the Saints defence and squared it for Campbell but he was unable to score in consecutive games in Paisley.
The victory is Hibs’ first in the league since February 19 when Jake Doyle-Hayes scored twice in a 2-0 win against Ross County and gives the Easter Road side a bit of breathing space as they look to avoid being dragged into the relegation play-off battle.