Superb Kevin Nisbet hat-trick gets Hibs back on track with 3-2 victory over Motherwell
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Johnson said after the derby defeat that he was “sick and tired of the mediocrity” in the final third. Nisbet showed anything but with a brilliant display of finishing to make it five goals in five games since his return from the ACL injury which sidelined him for ten months.
The Scotland international’s first hat-trick since August 2020, when he scored three against Livingston, takes Hibs up to seventh in the table and suddenly within striking distance of the top four. All three goals were superbly-executed poacher’s finishes. All three came from low crosses, delivered by Aiden McGeady, Elie Youan and Josh Campbell. All three were celebrated with relief and euphoria by the 1,206 travelling Hibs fans, who had to endure a nervy finish after a goal from Motherwell’s Ross Tierney in injury time.
Paul Hanlon’s relegation to the bench due to fitness concerns and Aiden McGeady’s first league start were the most notable changes to Johnson’s starting line-up following the derby defeat at Tynecastle. Will Fish and Harry McKirdy were also dropped, with Kyle Magennis back in from the start Ryan Porteous returning from suspension.
Hibs went into this game unbeaten against Motherwell in nearly two years and the visiting support would have taken encouragement from the bright start made by their team. Youan on the right and McGeady on the left saw plenty of the ball early on and Joe Newell, in a deep-lying playmaker’s role, controlled the rhythm and tempo. It was the Englishman’s vision which led to Nisbet’s opening goal.
Not for the first time in the opening 15 minutes, he looked up and sprayed the ball out to the left beautifully. McGeady had time and space to control, cut in and tease the Motherwell defence before delivering a low cross towards Nisbet near the penalty spot. There was still plenty for the striker to do, but his touch and turn was instant and his strike arrowed low into the bottom corner for his third goal since returning from injury.
A Hibs penalty claim for handball six minutes later was turned down and they remained on the front foot until the 26th minute when Motherwell, out of nowhere, created a flurry of chances. Rocky Bushiri blocked the first. David Marshall saved the second, a fine one-handed save at full stretch to preventing Callum Slatery from finding the bottom corner from distance. Rickie Lamie headed one off the bar just a few seconds later.
Defending into a very low sun didn’t help Hibs, Marshall and his defenders having to shield their eyes in order to protect their goal. Neither did an injury to Chris Cadden. He was replaced by Ewan Henderson, with Josh Campbell moving to right-back. All of it knocked Hibs off their stride and Motherwell appeared to sense the uncertainty creeping in.
But Hibs found a way to get through it and doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half. Porteous spotted the opportunity to take a quick free-kick deep inside his half and play it over the top for Youan. He outstripped a hesitant Motherwell defence caught on their heels, surged into the box and squared for Nisbet three yards out. The striker could not miss.
Hibs don’t make things easy for themselves though, conceding just seven minutes later from a similar long ball over the top. Campbell got caught underneath, letting in Stuart McKinstry and the Motherwell substitute fired through Marshall’s legs.
If Campbell was at fault, he made amends by setting up Nisbet’s third. Porteous instigated it with a thumping tackle to win possession before released Campbell down the right. Nisbet’s run to get in front the defender was brilliant and the first-time finish high into the net even better.