Hibs fail to make numbers count against Saints

THEY say you make your own luck. Hibernian, it seems, prefer to manufacture their own downfall.
Hibernian's Sam Stanton hangs his head. Picture: SNSHibernian's Sam Stanton hangs his head. Picture: SNS
Hibernian's Sam Stanton hangs his head. Picture: SNS

St Mirren 2-0 Hibernian

If you cannot make your own luck, if hard work is not enough and the break of the ball is simply not going your way, you should at least make use of the slightest bit of good fortune when it comes your way. Again, Hibs did not manage to do that on Saturday.

Two goals down with just under half an hour played, Hibs were given a chance to turn the game round when St Mirren’s Jim Goodwin was sent off for dangerously lunging into Kevin Thomson. They failed utterly, producing few decent shots on target, and allowing a nervous-looking Chris Dilo all the time he needed to deal with high balls.

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In retrospect, it was possible to conclude that Goodwin’s red card did nonetheless work in the Edinburgh club’s favour. Had the midfielder stayed on, the home team might well have gone on to double their margin of victory at least.

When wins are hard to come by, teams often have to concentrate first on becoming harder to beat. Hibs failed to do that too, conceding a goal after just 13 seconds. Steven Thompson’s header down was an inviting one for Kenny McLean to run on to, but the Hibs central defence should nonetheless have been alert to the danger. Instead, they stood leaden-footed as McLean cracked the ball home.

The second goal was almost as big a gift. McLean seized possession all too easily, and had time to wait for Paul McGowan to make his run through the middle. The pass was completed, and McGowan appeared to be given as much time as he required to shoot low past Ben Williams and into the net.

The fact St Mirren were so far on top made Goodwin’s challenge seem doubly needless. The ball was inside the Hibs half and going nowhere when the Irishman barged in, and although his challenge appeared badly mistimed rather than malicious, referee Kevin Clancy was well within his rights to show the red card. The home crowd booed Thomson every time he touched the ball after that, with many of them apparently thinking there had been no contact, but the blood on the Hibs midfielder’s knee suggested otherwise.

Thomson looked the likeliest man in a green jersey to create something of note, but one incident late in the first half showed what he was up against. A raking diagonal from the left touchline to the far side found James Collins, but the striker was hustled back some 30 yards while still in possession, then conceded a free kick.

Sean Kelly could have made it 3-0 on the brink of half-time only to shoot wide of the far post after a run down the left. That miss might have given Hibs a glimmer of hope during the interval, and for almost the entire second half there was a feeling that if they got one goal back, more might follow.

But their attempts to get that one goal were predictable, and easily thwarted by an extremely well organised and hard-working defence. Darren McGregor was the pick of the Saints back four, but collective patience and self-reliance was the key. If too much space was conceded too readily at times by the ten men, at least that meant they had sufficient numbers in the box to snuff out attacks, whether aerial or on the ground.

Even when Hibs were able to get anything on target, their efforts lacked conviction. Duncan Watmore offered a modicum of menace after coming on for Owain Tudur Jones, and Alex Harris showed moments of incision, which was at least better than the continued indecision displayed by his colleagues. But no-one forced Dilo into any really strenuous action.

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Watmore shot over late on in the game, and another substitute, Jason Cummings, had two other off-target attempts. And that was as good as it got for Hibs.

St Mirren, by contrast, always looked dangerous on the break. Stevie Thompson should have made it three when through on goal early in the second half, and the home team also had the ball in the net from a corner – but only after Clancy had already halted play for offside.

Having taken seven points from their last three games, Danny Lennon’s team are now level with Hibs, who have accumulated the same total from their last 14 matches. Both may be just one win away from safety – but as things stand, one team looks far more likely than the other to get that win.