With 18 minutes remaining of Saturday’s encounter with Alloa Athletic, it was a travesty of justice that Hibs might still have faced the loss of points.
Hibernian 2-0 Alloa Athletic
Scorers: Hibernian - Handling (28), Malonga (73)
They had been superior to Alloa in every department, and scorned numerous chances, but with the Wasps resurgent, Hibs still could not land the fatal sting until Dominique Malonga reacted quickest to a misdirected Liam Craig pass and accidentally looped the ball over Craig McDowall for a second goal that sealed the three points.
You had to have a modicum of sympathy for Alloa, whose 4-5-1 formation from the first whistle spoke volumes about their intention to defend in depth.
Nevertheless, Hibs should have had the game well won by the hour mark. They had played with patience against a ten-man defence who frustrated Hibs at every turn, McDowall blocking Malonga’s effort after 21 minutes, before Kyle Benedictus got in the way of Paul Hanlon’s headed attempt.
Hibs fully deserved their goal in the 28th minute, Danny Handling pouncing on the rebound after Jason Cummings blasted a shot off McDowall’s chest.
Scott Robertson and Scott Allan both fluffed good chances, while for Alloa, Stephen Simmons saw his shot sent wide by Liam Fontaine while Mark Docherty should have passed to a colleague in a better position rather than shoot wide.
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Hibs also dominated play in the second half, McDowall foiling Cummings on a couple of occasions and also keeping out Allan’s goalbound corner kick.
After 72 minutes, Alloa were still in the game before Malonga’s lucky coup de grace ended their resistance.
Until Saturday, Hibs had not won a league match at home since 13 September. Hanlon, who had a fine game in defence for the Easter Road side, echoed manager Alan Stubbs’ view that the win could be the start of improved home form by his team. Hanlon said: “It’s just good that we managed to get a victory because in the past we’ve got draws in games like this one.
“Too many times we have been drawing games here at home and it was good to turn it into a win. Hopefully we can turn this place into a kind of fortress this season.
“It’s vital to have a good home record. I was watching the Queen of the South game [against Rangers] on Friday night, and I think they’ve only conceded four or five goals at home and they’ve got a great record. We need to be the same.
“I think the fans can see the way we are trying to play and that’s what they want to see every week. Sometimes the results might not go our way but if we are playing in the right style that they want to see then they will stick by us.
“That’s the way we are trying to do it, we want to win games convincingly and with a bit of style as well.”
Sometimes of course you also need a bit of luck, as with Malonga’s fluke goal. “We saw from his celebration that I’m not sure he meant it,” said Hanlon. “It was a good time to get the goal for us. We were delighted, it gave us the cushion that we needed.
“Sometimes in previous seasons we’ve not had our share of luck so I’m delighted we got some today.”
The vagaries of league fixture selection and cup draws mean that Alloa now travel to Championship leaders Hearts next weekend, having had a run of six games in which they have faced Rangers and Hibs twice, and bogey teams Falkirk and Dumbarton, the only clubs to have beaten them twice this season.
Ben Gordon, who is forming a useful centre-back partnership with on-loan Benedictus, was playing at Easter Road for the first time on Saturday and is now looking forward to his first visit to Tynecastle to face unbeaten Hearts.
“It was my first time here at Easter Road and it will be my first time at Tynecastle next week,” said Gordon. “It will be something else to look forward to and experience and hopefully we can acquit ourselves a bit better.
“We have played Hearts this season and they were kind of fortunate to get the win. So we will go there with some confidence and we know we can perform against the big teams.”
Alloa will certainly have to improve in front of goal, as Gordon admitted: “We didn’t have a lot of clear-cut chances but we were under pressure for a lot of the game and there wasn’t the killer instinct to finish off the chances we got.”
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