Hibs 4 - 0 Dumbarton: Keatings hat-trick lifts Hibs

Hibernian's James Keatings scores his side's first goal. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Hibernian's James Keatings scores his side's first goal. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
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There was another clean sheet for new Easter Road talisman Conrad Logan but it was at the other end where attention was fixed on this occasion.

Hibs knew their ambitions of reaching second place in the league could stand and fall on the number of goals scored in their final two games. They got four last night, through an early James Keatings double, an own goal from Kevin Cawley and a tap in from the industrious Anthony Stokes, but they could and should have scored several more.

Indeed, Dumbarton goalkeeper Jamie Ewings, Logan’s opposite number, emerged as the stand-out performer.

There was also a miss to rival Jason Cummings’ skewed effort against the bar from a couple of yards against Raith Rovers a month ago. Stokes was the one left red-faced this time, mis-hitting his effort from about four yards back towards Ewings, who had looked stranded.

The goalkeeper also brilliantly denied Stokes from a later free-kick as Hibs sought to up the ante, and the fans grew more frustrated by Alan Stubbs’ strange refusal to turn to Cummings, named among the substitutes.

While the manager was at pains to stress securing the three points was the main issue at stake, the goals question could not be ignored.

At the start of play Falkirk were three points and seven goals better off than their rivals in the race for second place. They ended it having been pegged back to level on points, as expected. But it was the impact of last night’s game on the ‘goals for’ column which means things could get very interesting on Sunday, when Hibs face Queen of the South and Falkirk host Morton.

Stubbs took a risk in dropping Cummings. Need plenty of goals? Leave your top scorer on the bench. But there was method in the madness, initially at least. A fired-up Keatings scored twice in the opening 13 minutes as Hibs threatened to blow Dumbarton away.

But they were then frustrated by a combination of good defending from the visitors and poor finishing from the hosts.

Keatings got the scoring under way with an explosive finish past Ewings after just six minutes, taking advantage of the chance handed to him by an astute pass from Fraser Fyvie. Keatings turned and shot beyond Ewings into the top corner.

After a Martin Boyle effort was saved by Ewings, Gunnarsson then fired a cross-cum-shot across goal that the alert Keatings turned into the net. Many then expected Dumbarton to crumble. But credit to them, they dug their heels in.

A side featuring players of enough experience to calm themselves and steady the ship managed to make it to half-time without the situation worsening. That was a triumph in itself.

Ex-Hearts defender Darren Barr and former Hibs striker Paul Heffernan were included in the side, as were Frazer Wright and Steven Saunders, once of St Johnstone and Motherwell respectively.

But they rode their luck at times. Ewings was in good form, beating away a Henderson effort after 22 minutes. But there’s no getting away from it, after the initial burst, Hibs became profligate in the extreme.

They scored just twice from 17 or so chances in their last game against Dumbarton, which ended in a 3-2 defeat. But while there was never any danger of them conceding the points, they were in peril of wasting the momentum provided by such a good start.

Henderson skewed an effort wide from a good position after he was picked out by Stokes’ cross. Gunnarsson then failed to connect properly from Lewis Stevenson’s cross when in a similar position on the stroke of half-time.

But while Hibs could easily have been three or four goals up at the interval, it was not completely one-way traffic. Logan gave the Hibs fans another glimpse of his worth on his home debut, blocking Calum Waters’ shot at his near post.

Hibs could not afford to be negligent in defence, particularly when Christian Nade made a belated appearance from the bench just after the hour mark. He and Logan made for a heavyweight pair of sparring partners at corners.

But while Hibs were spared the sight of the former Hearts striker scoring, they were frustrated by their own forwards. Cawley, the Dumbarton midfielder, ended up doing the job for them after being pressurised by Keatings. Somehow the ball looped over Ewings into the net from just inside the box.

Hibs were not finished but neither was Ewings, who stuck out a leg to deny Boyle after a darting, mazy run from the winger. Stevenson then bashed a post with a swerving shot before Stokes scored from close in after Keatings’ corner was deflected into his path. It is strange to say it wasn’t Hibs’ night after a 4-0 win but that is how it felt.