Hibs were able to grind out a crucial win at Rugby Park, beating Kilmarnock 2-1 in the race for a top six berth.
It was a game with big incentives for both teams. Alex Dyer’s men could leapfrog Hibs and go into sixth with a win whilst Jack Ross’ side could create a four-point gap on seventh placed Killie.
Joe Newell found lots of room in the Kilmarnock penalty area after eight minutes but his shot was tame and easily blocked. Vykintas Slivka’s follow-up effort didn’t cause too much trouble either.
It was the big chance in an opening 25 minutes disrupted in parts by scrappy play and high winds. Both teams were trying to make a game of it but no fluency was found in the final third.
That was until Greg Docherty scored a screamer 28 minutes in. He cut in from the left and sent a brilliant curled effort into the top right-hand corner.
Veteran Killie man Chris Burke equalised two minutes later. A Niko Hamalainen cross was turned into the net by the 36-year-old’s diving header. All of a sudden, this game had sparked into life.
Adam Jackson gave Hibs the advantage at the interval. Kilmarnock were unable to deal with Newell’s free kick into the box and the Englishman made it two in two games.
The opening to the second half was similar to the first half- a pretty scrappy affair with no real goal opportunities. Hibs didn’t need to press forward as much but Killie would have to at some point if they wanted something from this.
Eamonn Brophy had an effort saved by Ofir Marciano before the hour mark as Martin Boyle went close up the other end. Stephen O’Donnell then provoked a fingertip save from Marciano as his effort was turned over the bar.
Both teams were huffing and puffing for that next goal. Ross’ men were having to weather a Killie storm as the home side began to look the most likely to hit the net next.
But despite a relentless wave of home pressure, it was the Hibees who claimed all three points. It’s a big victory for them and now Hibs have opened up a gap between them in sixth and Kilmarnock in seventh. Here are three things we learned.
Jackson at home in back three
Hibs’ formation change to 3-5-2 has brought about three positive results. One player in particular who has shone in this system is Jackson, playing at the heart of the three-man backline.
Alongside his second goal in as many games, the Englishman showed good positional awareness and blocking abilities as he goes through perhaps the brightest patch of his Easter Road career so far.
Top six blow for Killie
Dyer’s side came into this game looking for a fourth straight league win. It was such form that has taken them right up Hibs’ bumper in league action but an away win at Rugby Park provides breathing space.
The Hibees now have a gap on Killie, providing a blow to Dyer’s endeavours in the process. This race is by no means over, but Hibs have got the clear advantage right now.
Winning at a tough ground
Since 2014, Kilmarnock and Hibs have now met seven times in league action at Rugby Park following this match. Killie have made things uneasy for the Easter Road side in that time, losing just once prior to this defeat.
It’s perhaps why this may be such a pleasing win for Ross. His side had to dig deep to grind out this win and eventually got one at a venue they’ve found challenging.