Ayr 0, Hibs 3: Boyle at the double for Hibees

Martin Boyle, left, celebrates with Grant Holt. Picture: SNS
Martin Boyle, left, celebrates with Grant Holt. Picture: SNS
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Hibs maintained their three-point lead at the summit of the Ladbrokes Championship with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ayr United at Somerset Park.

Martin Boyle’s brace followed by John McGinn’s raker of a free-kick ensured it was a comfortable afternoon for Neil Lennon’s men.

An early Andrew Shinnie corner was met by a stooping Darren McGregor, who’s looping header was on target, but was high and slow enough for Nicky Devlin to head off the line, although home keeper Greg Fleming looked to have it covered in any case.

Ayr responded from a set-piece of their own. Former Hibs man Paul Cairney teed up Darryl Meggatt, who’s low drive took a slight deflection as it flew past Ofir Marciano’s left-hand post.

Boyle’s smart turn on the angle of the box created the extra yards needed to get a shot off, but Fleming was equal to the striker’s powerful effort and held on.

The same player forced an impressive stop from Fleming moments later. Fraser Fyvie’s header sent Boyle scampering in behind, who took a touch and fired towards goal, only for Fleming to throw up a strong right hand and divert away for a corner.

Boyle eventually got the better of the Ayr keeper shortly before the half-hour. He latched on to Lewis Stevenson’s ball in behind, beating the offside trap before turning inside Conrad Balatoni. Shinnie was screaming for a cutback, but Boyle was only ever going to do one thing, and his shot found the far corner despite Flemming’s attempts to parry.

Fleming had to stay big to prevent a quick-fire second, when Grant Holt’s initial blocked shot fell nicely for Fyvie, although the midfielder was denied by Fleming’s legs. Holt then wanted a penalty, and appeared to have a good claim after Balatoni looked to have to hauled him down, but Kevin Clancy waved him up.

Neil Lennon’s side almost doubled their advantage shortly after the break. Boyle fed Holt’s feet in the area, who in turn picked out Shinnie’s run with a clever back heel, and the on-loan Birmingham player was extremely unfortunate to see his placed effort graze the post.

Marciano, who had been a spectator until that point, produced a stunning one-handed save to keep out Jamie Adams’ close range header from Ross Docherty’s cross, showing wonderful reactions to shift his weight and palm the ball away.

An under-hit backwards header from Meggatt afforded Holt a great opportunity for 2-0, but the former Norwich front man couldn’t keep his lob on target with Fleming stranded.

That only delayed the second, which came with 15 minutes remaining. Fyvie fed McGinn, who in turn shaped to shoot before playing in Boyle with a lovely disguised pass, and he duly did the necessary, drilling the ball through Fleming’s legs for his and Hibs’ second.

The win was rounded off late on in spectacular fashion, McGinn lashing in a screamer of a free-kick via the post from around 30 yards.

Ayr United: Fleming, Devlin, Meggatt, Balatoni, Boyle, Cairney, Docherty, Gilmour (McGuffie 45), Adams (Nisbet 69), Harkins (O’Connell 81), Forrest.

Hibs: Marciano, McGregor, Hanlon, Fontaine, Gray, Fyvie, McGinn (Bartley 87), Stevenson, Shinnie (Cummings 87), Holt (Graham 81), Boyle.

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Attendance: 3100