HIBS produced an at-times mesmerising attacking display as they made it five away wins on the spin in an enthralling Championship encounter at Dumbarton.
Dominique Malonga, back from international duty with Congo, grabbed a hat-trick, while Scott Allan pulled the strings with a magnificent midfield display which had manager Alan Stubbs lauding him afterwards as arguably the best player in the division.
For all that Hibs excelled for large segments of the match, there were some rocky periods in the second half, when they looked in danger of throwing away a position of command. They led 3-0 at the break after a dominating first 45 minutes, but Dumbarton twice managed to get within a goal of their visitors – at 3-2 and 4-3 – before a couple of late strikes saw Hibs finish with six goals for the first time since their famous 6-6 draw at Motherwell four and a half years ago.
Despite the slackness which allowed the resurgent hosts genuine hope after the interval, Stubbs was thrilled with the way his side made it eight games undefeated in the league, a run stretching back to 13 September, when they lost at Queen of the South. “For 30 minutes we were outstanding, it was by far the best we’d played this season,” he said of the opening half-hour. “We started the second half a bit slow and conceded a couple of goals, but it would be wrong to concentrate on the goals we lost when we scored six magnificent goals.
“Dom is what we missed last week [against Queen of the South]. Scott seems to have got himself back on track – he’s in a very good place at the moment. For me, he’s as good as anyone in the league, he really is. It’s obvious to see. He’s head and shoulders above most players he comes up against. At one point against Dumbarton, it maybe got a little bit too easy for him.”
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Hibs broke the deadlock in 23 minutes. Danny Handling produced some brilliant play in the middle of the park before releasing Allan with a sumptuous pass and the former Dundee United player burst into the box and planted a superb low angled shot beyond Danny Rogers for his first goal for the Easter Road club.
The visitors doubled their lead four minutes later when Malonga got in behind the home defence after a neat lay-off from Liam Craig on the edge of the box and the big striker, who looked to have run the ball too far wide, produced a deft finish from the tightest of angles to squeeze the ball past Danny Rogers from six yards.
Hibs eased further ahead on the half hour when Allan waltzed in from the right, drilled the ball across goal and Paul Hanlon slammed it over the line from a few yards out.
Dumbarton had barely been in the game as an attacking force, but they gave themselves hope in the 50th minute when Chris Kane, who had just come on at the interval, volleyed home from ten yards after Colin Nish had nodded a cross down into his path. The Sons hauled themselves right back into contention in 61 minutes when Andy Graham headed home Mark Gilhaney’s cross.
Malonga then gave Hibs some breathing space with an audacious 30-yard strike which sailed past the despairing Rogers and into the goalkeeper’s top-right-hand corner.
Dumbarton weren’t finished though and in 71 minutes Garry Fleming reduced the deficit again when he curled in a lovely low strike from 25 yards out. However, substitute Sam Stanton eased the visitors’ nerves in 83 minutes when he ran into the box and applied the finishing touch to a magnificent flowing counter-attack involving Malonga and Craig.
Two minutes later, Malonga made sure Hibs closed the gap on second-place Rangers to seven points when he produced another cool finish from ten yards out after being slipped in behind the home defence by Stanton.
Dumbarton: Rogers, Graham, Mair, McLaughlin (McDonald 46), Gilhaney, Agnew, Fleming, Turner, Taggart (Kane 46), Megginson (Kirkpatrick 80), Nish. Subs not used: Ewings, Van Zanten, McDougall, Campbell. Booked: Graham, Turner. Goals: Kane 50; Graham 61; Fleming 71.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, S Allan, Robertson, Craig, Handling (Stanton 73), Cummings (Kennedy 85), Malonga. Subs not used: Perntreou, Harris, Heffernan, Jake Sinclair, Booth. Booked: Hanlon. Goals: Allan 23; Malonga 27, 64, 85; Hanlon 30; Stanton 83.
Ref: C Murray.
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