AFTER the previous weekend’s setback against St Mirren, Hibs swiftly got back into the groove of winning without conceding a goal. A dominant and sure-footed display in the glorious Dumfries sunshine brought them an emphatic victory which never looked in doubt from the moment Jason Cummings opened the scoring after just three minutes.
This was their sixth victory in their last seven games without losing a goal and although the performance never reached scintillating levels – it didn’t have to, given Queen of the South’s listlessness – it was the perfect response to last Saturday’s momentum-interrupting draw at home to the Buddies.
They remain 11 points behind Championship leaders Rangers with a game in hand, but, with the defence in such mean mood and the midfield controlling large periods of matches, it is not beyond possibility that they could haul themselves back into title contention.
Their main Achilles heel of late has been an occasional lack of killer instinct in attack. While Cummings has remained a consistent goal-scorer – yesterday’s was his 28th in 53 matches – his main partner in crime, Dominique Malonga, has generally toiled.
After a fine solo goal in the recent League Cup win over Aberdeen, however, the Congolese internationalist provided further indication yesterday that he is rediscovering his mojo. Malonga didn’t score himself – Liam Henderson and sub Martin Boyle got the other two – but he was the main architect of his side’s first two goals and generally the fulcrum of Hibs’ best attacking play.
“Dom was absolutely terrific,” purred Alan Stubbs, the head coach. “He looked a danger every time the ball went up to him. That’s more like the Dom we’ve seen before.”
With regards to his team’s overall display, Stubbs was quietly satisfied. “To come to Queens and win 3-0 says it all,” he said. “First half we were decent. Second half we didn’t get control of the game as much as we would have liked but the third goal was decisive.”
Hibs included striker Jamie Insall on the bench for the first time since he was plucked from the English non-league ranks in the summer. Defender Darren McGregor came in for his first league start as Liam Fontaine dropped out through injury. The visitors went ahead with the first proper opening of the match. The goal owed plenty to a lovely back-heel from Malonga, which sent Lewis Stevenson clear down the left. The full-back still had work to do and after hitting the bye-line, he cut the ball back perfectly for Cummings, who finished clinically from six yards.
Queens threatened an equaliser in the eighth minute when Derek Lyle headed Kyle Jacobs’ cross towards goal, but Mark Oxley did well to tip it over. That was as close as the hosts got all game.
Hibs extended their lead just before half-time when the overlapping Henderson arrived in the box to drill home emphatically after Malonga had done brilliantly to help tee him up and Boyle consigned the hosts to a seventh game in a row without a win when he slotted in after more good work on the left by Stevenson.