Hibs manager Jack Ross has made remedying the team’s inconsistency his priority in the second half of the season after the Leith side were swatted aside in a 2-0 loss at Livingston.
Jon Guthrie’s second half brace ensured the Lions leapt into fifth in the Ladbrokes Premiership at their opponents’ expense, the West Lothian outfit capping a memorable 2019 with a richly deserved victory.
The visitors had arrived at the Tony Macaroni Arena in high spirits after extracting all three points from the Boxing Day derby at Hearts.
However, Hibs’ passivity aligned to Livingston’s trademark aggression and work rate led to a one-sided second period that the hosts capitalised on.
It has been such an adulating season for Hibs that they have only recorded back-to-back league wins once this season.
They still sit in sixth place with a return of 25 points at the turn of the year, but Ross, who replaced Paul Heckingbottom last month, insists there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We didn’t deserve to win the game,” conceded Ross. “The goal does have an impact, and post-goal we were a long way short of being good enough.
“There have been a lot of decent performances and results in the last couple of months but days like today shows we’ve still got a bit to go.
“We’re in the top half but we’d like to have an even more positive points total.”
Asked if January reinforcements were needed, Ross replied: “I'm not knee jerk that way just because of this result.
“I do think there's one or two areas we need to be stronger in and have more options but we also need to make room within our squad to do that.”
Livingston’s aforementioned style, the plastic pitch and a swirling wind all made this a testing afternoon for the visitors.
Indeed, the weather may have played a part when Livingston defender Guthrie allowed Paul Hanlon’s long ball to drop in behind, allowing Martin Boyle a sight of goal.
However, the Australia international - the two-goal hero against rivals Hearts, failed to make any meaningful contact from just inside the area, the ball trickling through to Matija Sarkic.
In the main, the first half was a turgid affair interspersed with only a few chances at either end.
Livingston briefly threatened in the 34th minute when Steve Lawson drove down the outside of Lewis Stevenson before hitting a fierce drive towards the near post which Ofir Marciano expertly pushed behind.
Christian Doidge tried his best to inject some life into Hibs in the 38th minute, exchanging passes with Daryl Horgan to leave former Hibs favourite Marvin Bartley in his wake, but the striker fired a left-footed effort over the bar from 18 yards.
Livingston literally had the wind in their sails after the break as they made their dominance count in a lopsided second half.
The home side fired a shot across the bow in the 55th minute when Marciano was again called action to save Ricki Lamie’s glancing header from Craig Sibbald’s free-kick.
Livingston kept coming and duly made their domination count seven minutes later.
Sibbald’s corner into the area led to a scramble and in a ruck of bodies, Guthrie managed to get a decisive touch to open the scoring.
The reaction to that goal by both teams was the reason Holt’s side ran out as winners.
The Lions were not content with just one and continued to press, while Hibs simply did not enjoy being backed into a corner.
Lawson did well on the right, his dexterous feet creating space and Guthrie rose high to head beyond the despairing Marciano. There were 13 minutes left but there was no way back for Hibs.
This result ensure Livingston head into the winter break feeling good about themselves, and so they should.
“It was a deserved three points”, said manager Gary Holt.
“We knew it would be a tough game especially after they beat Hearts. “We wanted to make it uncomfortable and get at them and I thought we did that.
“We were at it from front to back, which we need to be. It was two good goals, they were well worked and we could have more.”