Hibee History: Perfect ten for Garry O’Connor as Saints are vanquished
Garry O’Connor maintained his excellent goalscoring run with a double to make it ten goals for the season as Hibs secured their first home win in the SPL since February.
Colin Calderwood’s men were undefeated in five games since losing the Edinburgh derby the previous month and they ended St Johnstone’s unbeaten away record with the help of a more solid second-half performance.
Hibs forced the first chance after ten minutes when the ball broke kindly for striker Junior Agogo following a long throw, but Saints keeper Peter Enckelman pushed over his volley from 12 yards.
Ivan Sproule finished off an excellent move in style to give Hibs the lead shortly after as the home team capitalised on an impressive start. Agogo made room for himself with some ball juggling skills and received the ball back from O’Connor’s backheel just outside the box.
The striker thought about shooting but elected to play the ball into the path of Sproule outside him. The Northern Irishman appeared to have lost the chance after taking a touch but he thumped the ball into the roof of the net from inside the box with his left foot.
The goal was the first St Johnstone had conceded away from home this season but they were level two minutes later.
Dave Mackay worked room on the right to cross and Liam Craig got in front of Richie Towell to volley into the corner from the penalty spot.
Saints should have gone ahead on the half-hour mark after Agogo conceded possession to Jody Morris inside his own half as Hibs tried to play the ball out from the back. Morris fed Francisco Sandaza, who turned Sean O’Hanlon one way and another but slipped the ball inches wide of the far post with his left foot.
The home side were soon back in front before half-time as O’Connor continued his hot goalscoring streak. The forward was outnumbered in the box as Agogo helped on a long ball but it broke invitingly for him and he shot powerfully low into the net from 16 yards.
Saints had some decent pressure early in the second half but Hibs, with Martin Scott on for Leigh Griffiths, were sitting deeper to protect keeper Graham Stack and Sproule created a chance on the break but Agogo could not direct his header.
The Hibees went further ahead after 62 minutes in controversial circumstances. O’Connor appeared to run into David McCracken and dive over his foot after losing the ball but referee Steve Conroy pointed to the spot and the striker sent Enckelman the wrong way.
Stack pushed away Sandaza’s strike as the visitors sought an instant response. Stack then easily saved Craig’s free-kick and Hibs appeared to be seeing the game out comfortably until Sheridan netted with two minutes left.
The Irishman brushed off centre-back Ian Murray as they chased a long ball and turned to curl the ball in off the post.
Panic spread throughout the home stands at Easter Road as the fans feared a late collapse but the visitors’ chances ended when Craig’s injury-time free-kick was cleared.
Hibs: G Stack, S O’Hanlon, I Murray, P Hanlon, R Towell, I Sproule (L Stevenson, 72), I Osbourne, V Palsson, J Agogo, L Griffiths (M Scott, 54), G O’Connor (A Sodje, 80). Subs not used: M Brown, D Wotherspoon, C Booth, D Stephens.
St Johnstone: P Enckelman, A Maybury (W Gibson, 65), D McCracken (M Haber, 87), D MacKay, S Anderson, J Morris, L Craig, C Millar, K Moon (D Robertson, 83), C Sheridan, F Sandaza. Subs not used:S May, L Caddis, M Durnan, A Mannus.
Referee: Steve Conroy.