Dundee Utd 0-2 Hibs: How Easter Road mood was changed considerably - Moira Gordon's verdict
There was the realisation that a European place was in jeopardy if they could not live up to their early-season standards as in-form Livingston closed in and, following transfer bids for Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous, there was the awareness that they may need to contest that battle without two of their star men.
If that picture was gloomy, fast forward to the final whistle at Tannadice and things had brightened considerably.
A team who had netted just three goals in seven games scored twice and kept a clean sheet to collect all three points.
On a day when those around them were dropping points, it was a valuable afternoon’s work and meant there is no need to write off third or even second place just yet.
Doing that without Nisbet or Porteous, who were left on the bench by manager Jack Ross, suggested there is still hope if they do move on.
It was a mood-enhancer Hibs desperately needed. Against a Dundee United side who have now won just one in 11, anything less would have invited even more pressure onto their shoulders.
How it unfolded
Aware of that, they went off on the front foot. Sticking with three at the back, they deployed Chris Cadden and Josh Dog as wing-backs, allowing them to take the game to their hosts.
Alex Gogic and Jackson Irvine were given the task of controlling midfield and they starved the potent opposition front line of supply, while Irvine proved a useful conduit for the attack-minded Jamie Murphy, Martin Boye and Christian Doidge.
On a day when everyone upped their game, roared on by vocal leadership from Darren McGregor at the heart of the backline, they worked together to break United down.
Cadden was strong on the flank and tested and probed, winning set pieces. And it was fellow newcomer Irvine who helped convert that into goal opportunities.
The first came in the 21st minute. Paul McGinn was unfortunate to have his header blocked but Irvine reacted quickly and cut the ball back for McGregor at the edge of the box. He rocketed a fearsome strike into the net for his first goal in two years.
If that was emphatic, the second goal had a bit more finesse.
United were better in the second half, but were not allowed to trouble Ofir Marciano. Hibs were more clinical and when Irvine threaded a beautifully-weighted through-ball between the United centre-backs, Martin Boyle scampered round the back before closing in on Benji Siergrist and finishing.
Hibs got a bit of luck when the officials failed to spot a Doig handball in the box a few minutes later. A penalty may have allowed United to test the Leithers’ resilience. Instead, Hibs – who will undoubtedly face a sterner test from St Mirren on Tuesday – comfortably saw the game out.
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