Hibernian will not be heeding chatter that this league is all but won. Their fifth win in a row saw them move eight points clear of second-placed Dundee United, who had been breathing down their neck only a matter of weeks ago, but while they appear to have shifted through the gears, Hibs say they are still keeping an eye on the rearview mirror.
Promotion has been the primary aim since Lennon took charge and while they had to show patience and resilience yesterday, waiting until the 52nd minute of the match to get the goal that separated the sides, the fact it came from a well-drilled training ground move showed they are leaving no stone unturned in their preparation for matches.
“The goal was straight off the training ground, without giving too much away,” Lennon said. “It’s one we’d thought about and it was actually our first corner. We wanted to see if we could work it. It got a deflection but I think we completely deserved the win.
“We had total control of the first half and for long periods of the second half were on the front foot.”
Hibs had taken a while to break through, though. Going with a diamond formation, in a bid to stifle Queen of the South’s ball players through the middle of the park, it was a tough task to find the space and the time needed to rain efforts in on Lee Robinson. It also meant that the full-backs, Lewis Stevenson and David Gray, were charged with the demanding role of getting upfield to provide the service from the flanks.
It left gaps in behind them at times, that allowed the Dumfries side to hit on the counter. But while they caused a few ruffles, the end product was lacking, with Ross Laidlaw having to do very little in the Hibs goal.
Home manager Gary Naysmith decided to have a greater go at things after they went behind. He was infuriated to lose the goal, screaming forlornly from the technical area to get someone to pick up John McGinn as he charged in from deep. The Hibs midfielder had stolen enough of a march on his markers to hit James Keatings’ corner sweetly, and send it back across the goalmouth, through a swarm of bodies and, having taken a deflection, past the Queens keeper.
It was a blow to them. “Very disappointed with the goal,” said the Queen of the South assistant manager Dougie Anderson. “We were pleased with our performance but to lose from a set play was very disappointing. I could actually see it happening from the side and we just couldn’t get someone to come off the post and pick him up. At this level you get punished if you switch off for a few seconds.
“Hibs are top of the table and probably deserve to be there. I thought we put them under a bit of pressure in the last ten, we gambled a bit, put Lyndon [Dykes] up with Derek Lyle and Dobbs [Stephen Dobbie] up there. We put them under a bit of pressure but didn’t create any clear-cut chances.”
In the middle of the park, McGinn and Fraser Fyvie had dictated matters but finding a cutting edge was the issue. Even when the ball was played into the box, Jason Cummings and Gary Holt managed to get in each other’s way, the former attempting an ambitious overhead kick in front of goal when his more experienced foil was in the perfect position to nod it home. It led to a few cross words as frustration grew.
Too often the goal attempts were from distance, frequently they soared over the bar. But patience is a virtue and Hibernian eventually got their reward, even if Lennon would have preferred another goal or two to allow them a more comfortable run-in to the final whistle against a team that had only suffered one defeat in the seven games since Naysmith took charge.
Joe Thomson did work Laidlaw just after Hibs had scored, another breakaway ending with him lashing a shot at the keeper. But Robinson was the busier keeper, saving from Gray midway through the half as Hibs settled on seeing out the game.