The ultimate expression of Hibernian’s free-flowing, flairful football last season was the rapid exchange of flicks between Dylan McGeouch and Florian Kamberi which created the first of the latter’s hat-trick against Hamilton Accies back in April.
None of the six goals rammed past the Lanarkshire team this afternoon was as beautiful, nor any of the numerous artful moves which only lacked the final flourish although some went very close. But for not yet achieving Peak Hibee Neil Lennon’s men were still pretty exceptional.
Losing McGeouch and an entire midfield had prompted much tinkering from Lennon as he’s experimented with different permutations. It might be too early to say that Emerson Hyndman, Vykintas Slivka and Stevie Mallan are his perfect three, although what is not in doubt is that the latter scores more goals than McGeouch, John McGinn and Scott Allan combined, with two more coming here. It is also way too early to say Hibs for the league but closing the gap with Hearts at the top to just two points will do just fine for now.
This was Hibs’ biggest win since putting seven past Livington without reply back in February 2006. Poor Accies had no answer, and the 18th minute when they could and should have opened the scoring seemed an awful long time ago come the moment they were finally put out of their misery.
After missing a barrowload of chances in their previous two games, Hibs would have wanted to capitalise on one of the earliest opportunities, but before that a hopeful Hamilton hoof was allowed to bounce in the box by Efe Ambrose and Ryan Porteous. All Rakish Bingham needed to do was pick his spot but he tried the chip and Adam Bogdan saved.
The breakthrough came in the 24th minute. Mallan’s perfect diagonal pass was delivered hard and low by David Gray and Slivka was first to have a go. His blocked effort fell invitingly for Martin Boyle and the speed-merchant celebrated his call-up to the Australia national squad by finding the postage stamp from 13 yards.
Were you watching, Alex McLeish? Well, the same player immediately had a chance to double the lead but his screwed effort well wide of the far post was of the type Hibs fans know well, but they love the player all the same.
Emerson Hyndman headed over from another Gray cross as Hibs started to find a nice groove and the second goal was coming. Lewis Stevenson prodded the ball forward to Kamberi who laid back for Mallan. The midfielder winding up for a right-foot strike from outside the box is one the faithful have come to expect and yet again he didn’t disappoint, although Gary Woods may feel, after getting a glove on the ball, that he could have stopped it.
The third goal involved even more personnel from the surging team in green, with the ball being swung across the park. Eventually Boyle crossed from the left and Hyndman side-footed home perfectly from ten yards, the first counter of the American’s loan spell.
Another liquid move right after the restart concluded with Kamberi leaving Matthew Kilgannon with twisted blood. A corner resulted and Mallan hit it long for what could have been the most spectacular moment of Stevenson’s long Hibee career, but his volley fizzed wide.
Lennon must have been purring. Well, when he wasn’t berating first Kamberi then Mallan for a certain casualness with the pass. A delicious turn from Kamberi almost brought the Swiss his reward before another quest for the perfect team goal ended with a Gray miskick. Then the ever-unerring Mallan stepped forward and from 25 yards bulleted home the fourth. That brought a huge cheer but maybe James Keatings’ appearance from the visitors’ bench was more heartfelt, the ex-Hibee having been one of the 2016 Scottish Cup heroes.
From the home bench came young Jamie Gullan for a first league appearance and the Dutchman Miquel Nelom for a debut turn. Along with the semi-delirious crowd in the sunshine they could enjoy fellow sub Daryl Horgan’s unselfishness in setting up Kamberi for the fifth, and surely they felt sympathy for Kilgannon turning the ball into his own net from another Kamberi surge for the sixth.