After the swirl of headlines and rumours that the Scott Allan transfer saga finally subsided on Friday, Hibs must have been looking forward to getting back to concentrating on the simple stuff on the field of play.
Except of course it’s rare that anything is simple down Easter Road way and yesterday they made hard work of winning game which they dominated while being far from totally convincing.
It took one of those moments when a managerial decision looks marvellously inspired to secure what was already a vital three points for Hibs with a visit to Ibrox looming large. Unable to put a plethora of openings away, Alan Stubbs introduced Jason Cummings early in the second half and with his first touch of the ball the substitute had the ball in the back of the net.
“Today it worked, another day it may not,” reflected Stubbs with a wry smile. “Jason deserves the credit, not me. He’s been in the right place at the right time and he’s finished it emphatically.”
While going on to credit both Morton for their doggedness and his own players for their patience, inevitably the Hibs manager could not avoid discussing long drawn out departure of Allan and its impact on the club.
“It’s been a turbulent few weeks and now we move on as a football club,” he insisted. “I feel as though we’ve done the right thing in the interests of the club. We wish Scott all the best and there’s no animosity towards him whatsoever.”
He also expressed delight at securing Liam Henderson on loan from Celtic as part of the deal that took Allan to Glasgow. “Liam’s a very talented footballer and one who has the potential to go to the very top.”
Anxious to get off the mark after misfiring at Dumbarton in their opening fixture Hibs could not be faulted for their application and urgency particularly in the opening 45 minutes.
They had several gilt-edged openings but were thwarted by a combination of over anxiety and last ditched defending from the visitors. Dominique Malonga snatched at a gaping opportunity having been set up by David Gray and then the Hibs captain must have been left scratching his head when two goal-bound efforts of his own were cleared off the line.
Morton manager Jim Duffy, returning to one of his former stomping grounds after a long absence, was pleased at the manner in which his side generally hung on to their composure despite some testing moments. Truth be told they also had a couple of the best chances of first half as Hibs were guilty committing too many forward at times and were vulnerable to being hit on the break. Mark Oxley made two remarkable stops to deny Peter MacDonald and then Stefan McCluskey in just such circumstances. “Score one of those and Hibs might have got a bit edgy,” suggested Duffy and it was hard to disagree.
The traffic continued to flow towards the Morton goal after the break and initially it looked like more of the same as more chances were passed up by the home side. It needed Cummings’ arrival to apply the finishing touch that the constant stream of quality service from Gray deserved as yet another measured cross was clinically drilled into the net by the substitute who had barely been on the field for half a minute.
One or two more might have been for the hosts after this, and Cummings did nearly get another with a header minutes later, but in truth they didn’t really build up the expected head of steam.
Instead the door was left tantalisingly ajar for Morton but in truth they didn’t manage to conjure up the sort of menace that they had presented in the first half.
McCluskey had a plausible opportunity after a rare bit of sustained probing by the Greenock men but he couldn’t get any power and direction on his shot.
The home support were happy enough when the final whistle sounded but their cheers contained at least a trace of relief that their team had got their first league victory of the season under their belts. Sterner tests will follow.
Hibs: Oxley; Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson; Bartley (Cummings 58); Boyle, Fyvie, McGinn, Carmichael (Henderson 69); Malonga.
Morton: Gaston; Kilday, Gasparotto, Lamie, Russell (Stevenson 79); Pepper, Miller, Forbes (Barr 75), McCluskey (Sabajo 82); MacDonald, Johnstone
Referee: C Charleston.