By Ben McNicol
Hibs took full control of third spot in the Premiership with a hard-fought 2-1 win over St Mirren.
Jak Alnwick’s red card ultimately sparked the game into life and goals from Ryan Porteous and Martin Boyle helped the Hibees over the line despite a late fight from the Buddies.
This was set to be a tight affair. Both these teams have responded well from their League Cup semi-final defeats, with St Mirren annihilating Dundee United 5-1 before securing a first win at Celtic Park in 31 years while Hibs were narrowly beaten by runaway leaders Rangers and also won relatively comfortable at Tannadice as well at the weekend.
It was St Mirren who started on the front-foot, with Ilkay Durmus instrumental in all of the Buddies attacking play as 18-year-old Josh Doig continued to trail in his wake. But there was next to no goalmouth action as both keepers remained passengers until a dramatic event saw the game turn on its head shortly after the half-hour mark as the Buddies were reduced to 10 men.
Jake Doyle-Hayes’ poor pass saw goalkeeper Alnwick charge out of his goal, bringing down Boyle before what would have been a goal scoring opportunity, giving referee Alan Muir no other option than to show the St Mirren keeper a straight red card.
Jack Ross brought on the in-demand duo Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous in the second half and it was the Scotland U21 international who put Hibs ahead as he out-muscled his marker at the front-post and headed home Boyle’s corner 54 minutes in.
Hibs doubled their advantage on the 71st minute from the penalty spot through Boyle after Marcus Fraser was judged to have pulled down Jamie Murphy.
It looked as if the visitors were going to go on and comfortably see out the game, but minutes later the Buddies pulled one back. A great counter-attack from the Saints saw Dylan Connolly unselfishly square the ball to Jon Obika, who slotted beyond Ofir Marciano.
Up the other end, it was almost an instant response from the Hibees as Boyle charged forward before laying it off for Murphy outside the area and his first time strike came back off the post. The Buddies threw everything forward in search of a late leveller but Ross’ side remained defensively resolute to claim huge points. Here are three things we learned.
Hibs in third
Hibs’ win has them leapfrog Aberdeen into third place in the Scottish Premiership table after the Dons were soundly beaten by high-flying Livingston at Pittodrie. A huge match now awaits between the pair on Saturday in Leith.
Scotland U21 international Porteous was subject to an approximately £1 million transfer bid from English Championship side Millwall during the January transfer window and despite being left on the bench beside Nisbet, the defender came on and scored the opener with a fantastic header.
The winger was the standout player in the opening half-hour, but following Alnwick’s red card was unfortunately sacrificed at half-time as Jim Goodwin opted to be more direct by bringing on Obika. He was causing Hibs problems and this was likely a very tough decision for his boss.
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