Bevis Mugabi had one in the net for Stephen Robinson’s team but his header before half-time was ruled offside. After the break, Hibs were clinical, Martin Boyle scoring before the hour-mark. Christian Doidge would finish the game off three minutes from time with a fine strike from just inside the box, Stephen McGinn adding insult to injury in stoppage-time.
Motherwell were boosted midweek by the outcome of the SPFL tribunal hearing against Kilmarnock and St Mirren. Both clubs were given 3-0 forfeits as part of their punishments, meaning games in hand were forfeited.
It gave the Well six points and while Hibs boss Jack Ross didn’t agree with the punishments, which he didn’t blame his weekend opponents for, he was well aware the Steelmen were now breathing down their necks.
Melker Hallberg registered the game’s first chance 10 minutes in, the Swedish midfielder blazing over Jordan Archer’s crossbar, the Well keeper making his debut for the club.
Tony Watt would have an even better opening up the other end seven minutes later, turning Callum Lang’s cross just wide after some excellent play from the Wigan loanee. From there it was very even, each side trying to sound the other out.
Robinson’s side were beginning to find their groove towards the half’s end after a small spell of Hibs crosses. The returning Allan Campbell had made a big difference in midfield, his manager saying Motherwell lacked bite without him in the League Cup exit to St Johnstone.
Campbell’s shot nine minutes before the end of the half was saved by Ofir Marciano before a Motherwell goal was disallowed, Mark O’Hara ruled offside in the build-up to Mugabi’s header.
The game was finely poised at 0-0, although the home team had the better of the first-half chances. Hibs like the opening 45 minutes started brighter and put plenty of bodies and around the claret and amber penalty area.
Despite this, Watt was presented a huge chance as Motherwell broke on a Hibs set-play. Stephen O’Donnell ran the length of the park to set him up but Motherwell’s number 32 skied his chance.
Archer came to the rescue a minute later as the game turned pulsating. He reacted quickly enough to deny Boyle from just a couple of yards out, but the Australian made his next chance count.
On the 58th minute mark, another ball across the Well area landed at his feet, the winger this time making no mistake with the strike, a just reward for Hibs’ early dominance in the second half.
Mugabi came so close again from a set-play routine, this time his header crashing off the post. It was the closest Motherwell had came to levelling prior to the final ten minutes, no real clear cut chances created after Mugabi’s effort.
Doidge was able to punish them for this as he returned to Hibs’ scoresheet, sending a low effort past Archer to seal the three points and third spot for his side. There was more to come, midfielder McGinn striking in stoppage time from a Jamie Gullan cutback to seal a great win for Hibs. Here are three things we learned.
On Monday, Hibs headed into this thinking they could pull more than four games clear of Motherwell in the table. By the time kick-off at Fir Park rolled around, the gap could have been as little as two points.
Ross’ men had a bit more heat on them but they braved the cold to get an important three points and move eight clear of Motherwell.
Taking your chances
This one didn’t pass Robinson’s team by without some chances. Mugabi in defence could have had a double, one ruled offside and another cracking the post.
But despite their chances, Motherwell weren’t able to take any. It didn’t fall for them at Fir Park as Hibs struck when it mattered most.
There’s no hiding from the fact that when in-form, Boyle is one of Hibs’ best players. But he hasn’t hit the net or registered an assist in the Premiership since September 20.
He’s turned in some decent performances in that time but he was able to break his end-product duck in Lanarkshire. Similarly for Doidge, his first Premiership goal since September will give him a real lift.