Hibs 1-0 Aberdeen: How Ryan Porteous helped Shaun Maloney win his first game in charge

The new era started with a wave to the crowd and a welcome three points that will lift festive spirits in Leith.

Ryan Porteous scores a header to put Hibs 1-0 up on Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Ryan Porteous scores a header to put Hibs 1-0 up on Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Given the Scottish Government’s decision to limit football crowds to 500 from Boxing Day onwards due to concerns over the omicron variant of a virus that has been as bothersome and unrelenting as the most tenacious midfielder, as kick-off approached there was an announcement from the SPFL that the winter break had been brought forward.

Shaun Maloney’s first appearance in front of the Hibs fans at Easter Road would also be his last, until at least February 1, when capital rivals Hearts will first foot them, albeit a month late.

By then, Maloney should have a few new faces around the place, and the men who offer continuity should be far fresher. Even if a club versus country tug-o-war is anticipated over Martin Boyle, who would be expected to feature in Australia’s World Cup qualifier against Oman that day.

But they proved that there is a resilience to them that the new gaffer can tap into, bouncing back from their League Cup final defeat just days ago, and starting the game on the front foot. As things settled down, they had to handle the pressure applied by Aberdeen before Ryan Porteous popped up with the 63rd minute winner.

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Well aware of the fact that Hibs’ unenviable schedule has seen then play 10 games in a month, while his Pittodrie side have contested half that number, Stephen Glass’ men tried to use that relative freshness to full effect, working Hibs hard. Letting the ball do the hard graft, they played a possession game designed to keep Hibs hustling in the hope that dwindling energy reserves would be sapped.

Playing for a spot in the new gaffer’s plans can be a huge incentive, though.

There had been a few changes to the home line-up, with Lewis Stevenson and Jamie Murphy dropping to the bench and Joe Newell slipping out the squad completely but Maloney was at pains to stress that very little should be read into that other than the fact that the likes of the Englishman has racked up so much game time recently.

The presence of Scott Allan in the starting line up was viewed as a positive by many Hibs fans but Aberdeen were the team in greater control, although they struggled to find an end product.

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Restricted to primarily long-range efforts, they will rue their inability to produce something more tangible, as Hibs ultimately proved more adept at finding the way through. They had poked and probed, with Martin Boyle and Kevin Nisbet working to find openings but it was a set-piece that provided the headed winner, as he rose to bomb home a corner.

After the recent victory over Dundee, another three points suggest Hibs still have something to build on as they head back into the top six. Leapfrogging both Dundee United and Aberdeen, who replaced them in seventh.

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