HIBERNIAN racked up their fourth straight pre-season win last night - and their fourth clean sheet in a row - with a convincing win against English visitors whose physical strength was not matched by creativity. Hibs' first goal came slightly against the run of play, but the second emphasised their dominance, and by the time the third went in Bolton had given up the fight.
Playing their first match of the pre-season at Easter Road after four games away, Hibs gave home debuts to goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay and midfielder Brian Kerr. Torben Joneleit, the defender on loan from Monaco, was among eight players listed to begin on the bench, but although another central defender, Thierry Gatteusi, was not among the octet, he came on in the second half.
Bolton started their most recent recruit, Heidar Helgusson, but they left out a number of their best-known names. Jussi Jaaskelainen was rested to allow Ian Walker a game in goal, while Ivan Campo and Nicolas Anelka were among the other significant omissions from Sammy Lee's 18-man squad.
Hibs played most of the football in the game's early stages, but Bolton were more composed, and twice came close to taking the lead in the first quarter of an hour. After ten minutes a shot on the run by Helgusson brushed the right post with Ma-Kalambay, and then a couple of minutes later the home goalkeeper had one of those awkward moments which were all too familiar to supporters of the club last season.
At least Ma-Kalambay's fumble of a cross by El-Hadji Diouf did not result in a goal, but that was primarily because Gary Speed sent a weak shot right back into his arms. Apart from that minor blemish, though, the new signing from Chelsea came across as a more reassuring presence between the sticks than his predecessors, and if he continues in that vein it should have a positive effect on his central defence. He came to Rob Jones's rescue midway through the first half by saving at the feet of Helgusson after a pass from the Hibs captain had gone straight to a Bolton player, by which time the visitors' opening goal seemed to be not far away. Instead, it was Hibs who opened the scoring after springing Bolton's offside trap.
There did not seem to be much on when David Murphy passed to Lewis Stevenson just inside their own half, but Stevenson looked up, saw Steven Fletcher making a run, and timed his pass perfectly. The striker failed to control the ball properly with his initial touch, but was able to run on into the box and send a low shot across goal and into the right corner of the net.
Fletcher had the ball in the net again not long afterwards from a similar move, but he was ruled to have been offside when Kevin McCann floated his pass over the top to him. Hibs were definitely in the ascendant by then, and before half-time Walker had to look lively to deal with a bouncing shot by Abdessalam Benjelloun then another drive from Fletcher. It was Bolton who had the last real chance of the half, however, when a shot by Ricardo Vaz Te hit the bar on its way behind.
Bolton must have been relieved to see Fletcher replaced by Clayton Donaldson for the second half, and their defence became less susceptible to the swift through ball. Hibs maintained the upper hand all the same, and although their second-half play lacked the verve of their first, they clinched the victory when a one-two between David Murphy and Kevin McCann ended with the former coolly steering the ball past Walker.
With Bolton realising the game was beyond them, Abdessalam Benjelloun found the space to create an angle on the edge of the box and score with a fine drive.
Hibernian: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Hogg, Jones, Murphy, Stevenson (Lynch 89), Kerr, Beuzelin (Gatteussi 75), Zemmama (Chisholm 75), Benjelloun (Campbell 83), Fletcher (Donaldson, half-time). Subs not used: McNeil, Joneleit, McCormack, McCaffrey, .
Bolton Wanderers: Walker, Sinclair, Jamieson, Faye, Michalik, Speed (Cassidy 87), Stelios (Woolfe, half-time), Guthrie (Sissons 64), Helgusson (Harsanyi, half-time), Vaz Te, El-Hadji Diouf (Obadeyi 64). Subs not used: O'Brien, Kazimierczak.