Leigh Griffiths grabbed a glory double as Hibs came from behind to go top of the SPL table once again. And, incredibly, the striker twice hit the woodwork and saw a late effort chalked off for offside as St Mirren skipper Jim Goodwin saw red.
Kenny McLean fired the Buddies ahead only for Griffiths to equalise six minutes later and his 65 minute strike was enough to earn Hibs the three points and to maintain their unbeaten home record although Easter Road chairman Rod Petrie would be disappointed to see the crowd, at 10,358, only marginally up despite his plea for the Hibs support to back Fenlon’s players in greater numbers.
Tim Clancy failed to shake off the stomach muscle problem which has been troubling him for a few weeks, his place going to Alan Maybury in the only change to the Hibs side which defeated Motherwell eight days ago.
The opening quarter of an hour was a rather scrappy affair, Hibs probing but too often seeing the final ball fail to connect. Referee Alan Muir hardly helped the flow of the game, constantly stopping play for the most trifling of reasons, much to the annoyance of players and fans alike.
But it was the Buddies, fresh from securing their place in the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup who carved out the first opening, Sam Parkin’s lay-off providing his fellow striker Steven Thompson with a clear sight of Ben Williams’ goal. However, he struck his shot down into the ground and the Hibs goalkeeper gathered easily,
Hibs went even closer, though, in the 22nd minute as a mix-up between Goodwin and Marc McAusland allowed the ball to run through to Griffiths who steadied himself before hammering in a terrific left-foot shot which spend across Saints goalkeeper Craig Samson but crashed back off the inside of the post.
Williams was forced into a superb save, thrusting out a strong left hand to push away McLean’s shot but he could do nothing to stop the midfielder firing the Paisley outfit into the lead with 32 minutes gone.
Hibs had three chances to clear Dougie Imrie’s corner but failed to do so, the ball eventually falling for McLean 25 yards out and he wasted no time in drilling in a low shot which flew into the bottom corner of Williams net.
Hibs, however, were behind for only five minutes and again it was Griffiths who was the hero, the striker claiming his tenth goal of the season. Paul Cairney’s cross from the left was flicked on by the head of Eoin Doyle to find the on-loan Wolves star who gathered the ball at the back post before sliding it below the body of Samson.
Hibs had looked a touch out of sorts for much of the first half with Danny Lennon’s side the more threatening but the Capital club were on the front foot from the first whistle after the interval, Cairney exchanging passes with Doyle before delivering a shot which wass always bending away from Samson’s far post before Griffiths saw a shot blocked by Lee Mair.
At the other end McAusland got on the end of Goodwin’s corner to direct the ball goalwards but Jorge Claros nodded clear as Saints sought to re-assert themselves,
But it was Griffiths who fired Hibs ahead in the 65th minute with a sublime goal, taking Cairney’s pass before cutting onto his favoured left foot to drill a low shot into the bottom left hand corner of Samson’s net.
Sixty seconds later the game took another bad turn for Saints as their captain Goodwin, booked for a dreadful first half challenge on Ryan McGivern, was spotted by the far side assistant David Watt apparently thrusting a hand into the face of Wotherspoon, the upshot being a second yellow for the combative midfielder.
Saints, though, weren’t finished and Williams was forced to tip over McAusland’s header from Imrie’s cross but Griffiths was denied his hat-trick when he struck the post for a second time with a thundering free-kick from 22 yards, Mair, having just been booked for a foul on him lucky not to be following Goodwin for an early bath for his blatant block on Wotherspoon.
Hibs: Williams, Maybury, McPake, Hanlon, McGivern, Wotherspoon, Claros, Taiwo, Cairney, Griffiths, Doyle (Stevenson 78). Substitutes not used: Murdoch, Sproule, Handling, Stanton, Kuqi, Donaldson.
St Mirren: Samson, Van Zanten, McAusland, Mair, Dummett, Reilly (Teale 63), Goodwin, McLean, Imrie, Parkin (Guy 61), Thompson. Substitutes not used: Smith, Robertson, Barron, McGinn, Carey.
Referee: Alan Muir.