LET’s just say he had a hand in the outcome. Not only did young Adam Campbell, on loan from Newcastle United, play a big part in his team’s first-half destruction of Hibernian yesterday, he escaped punishment for a handball in stoppage time that should have enabled Hibs to steal a draw.
Scorers: Hibernian - Collins (63, 89); St Mirren - Williams (5 og) Campbell (24) Thompson (26)
“It was an unbelievable flick-up,” said Terry Butcher, the home side’s manager. “You could get a contract in a volleyball team by doing things like that.”
What it didn’t do was earn Hibs a penalty, although even Butcher had to admit that a share of the points would have been more than his team deserved. While two
second-half headers by James Collins amounted to a show of pride by the Edinburgh team, the story of this one was a quite shocking first half in which they conceded three, were fortunate not to lose a fourth and did just about everything wrong.
“That’s the most wretched 45 minutes I think I’ve seen from one of my teams,” said a livid Butcher. “It was absolutely abysmal. There were a few choice words at half time. Defensively we were a shambles, and going forward, we weren’t much better.
“There are a few players in the first half who said to me, by their performances, ‘I’m not good enough gaffer, get someone else in’. I can’t do that in January, but I will bloody well do it in the summer because that was not acceptable. That was awful.”
It was Hibs’ third straight game without a win. It was also a first home defeat for Butcher, who is clearly planning wholesale changes. He named only six substitutes because some others were injured and the rest, he said, didn’t deserve to be on the bench. Paul Cairney did not reappear for the second half.
St Mirren had gone ahead after only four minutes, albeit thanks to a lucky break. Sean Kelly scampered down the left and cut the ball back to McGowan, whose low shot bounced against the right-hand post, off the back of Hibs’ prone goalkeeper, Ben Williams, and over the line.
The early setback seemed to daze Hibs, who were unsettled further by an injury, four minutes later, to Ryan McGivern. He went off, clutching his hamstring, to be replaced by Alex Harris whose berth on the left of midfield meant that Lewis
Stevenson retreated to full-back.
The trigger for St Mirren’s second goal was a perfect ball speared down the touchline by Conor Newton. Not only did Campbell dash on to it, he picked out the unmarked John McGinn in the box and stepped inside to take the return pass. His low finish from eight yards completed a move as sharp and slick for St Mirren as it was embarrassing for Hibs.
The home side, who were without the injured Paul Hanlon in central defence, had not even come to terms with the loss of a second when they conceded a third.
Campbell again was the architect, shuffling past his marker in the channel and standing up a cross that Thompson headed high into the net.
As if the first half had not been disturbing enough for Butcher, his team almost shipped a fourth just before the interval.
When Goodwin’s free kick sought out McGowan, the St Mirren player, with his back to goal, was given the time to turn and hook a dipping shot that came back off the crossbar.
Butcher went 4-3-3 for the second half, but what his team needed more than anything was a lift, something that would give them belief. Just after the hour, that arrived in the shape of a goal. When a shot by Harris was beaten away by Marian Kello, the young winger skipped over to take the resulting corner. From there, he whipped in a cross that Collins glanced past the St Mirren goalkeeper.
St Mirren were briefly rattled, particularly as Goodwin, their driving force, was again running the risk of a red card. The Irishman’s habit of elbowing opponents has made him quite the pantomime villain recently, so when he was booked for a controversial challenge on Sam Stanton, his manager
hastily hooked him.
Danny Lennon later suggested that Goodwin’s reputation was preceding him. “There is certainly a highly documented thing going on with Jim just now,” he said. “We have strong referees here, but they’re only human. Jim Goodwin can be ten yards from the foul and the fans start to have a go. I fear for Jim in terms of his career.
“He’s no angel, no saint, and he’s brought a lot of it upon himself, but it’s up to everyone in the Scottish game. We don’t want to take that desire out of the game. It’s something that had to be addressed.”
Hibs, meanwhile, failed to make the necessary progress in Goodwin’s absence. Their second goal, when it did come, was too late to make a difference. Two minutes remained when a cross by Lewis Stevenson broke to Collins, whose header found the corner of the net.