Hibs put pressure on Hearts as fans sing 'on our way' Euro chant, St Mirren boss in 'taken something' claim

"We’re on our way, we’re on our way” came the chant from the Hibs fans as the clock ticked towards the moment Matthew McDermid blew the full-time whistle. The way? Europe. With St Mirren pushing for an equaliser in the dying minutes it was brave, tempting fate, but confident.

There was a mixture of relief and delight when the whistle did arrive. The 2-1 win at Easter Road was far more tense than it should have been towards the end but it was one which put Lee Johnson’s men in the driving seat for fifth place which could bring a European adventure, while also keeping the pressure on city rivals Hearts in the race for fourth spot, which will definitely bring at least one trip in the Europa Conference League. Having secured a top-six place on the 33rd match day, dusting off the passports and ensuring they are up to date is now the aim. Saturday at home to a Buddies side with exactly the same aspirations, only goal difference separating the sides going into the encounter, was therefore huge. The biggest game of the season according to Johnson pre-match, reflected in the way the Hibs boss patrolled the technical area, at one point remonstrating a foul in a manner where he looked like he was bowling at The Oval.

What to expect

When Hibs led 2-0, midway through the first half Chris Cadden raced to the sidelines after the ball had gone out of play, urging the ball boy to act quickly. It was the attitude which summed up the home side’s first half. They were a team on a mission. Play quickly, not allow the visitors to slow the game down, keep the intensity high and be relentless. That could be seen in the opening goal. Barely five minutes on the clock and they pounced. Charles Dunne played it infield to Marcus Fraser. Elie Youan sensed an opportunity and took it, pinching the ball of the dithering Fraser. The Frenchman is an enigmatic talent. You don't know what to expect. His team-mates don't know what to expect. Perhaps sometimes he doesn’t know what to expect. But, on this occasion, when he raced away and into the box there was only going to be one outcome. Goal. His seventh of the season and 14th goal contribution in total.

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"We certainly wanted to play on the front foot", Johnson said. “We played on the front foot against Hearts even though it was from a strong defensive structure it was slightly different because we had the lion's share of possession, certainly in the first half, whereas against Hearts, they probably took the ball a bit more and we pressed but it's something we work on regularly. For the first goal, Élie Youan as the wide man was pressing the outside centre-half and he earned himself a one-on-one with the 'keeper but I was really pleased with both goals.”

Standing ovation

Youan, more than anyone, personified Hibs against the Buddies. Not only better but there was a really positive, collective attitude. While some of his attacking actions didn’t quite come off and, as is the case from time to time, he may not have got his head up in certain situations, his work rate and enthusiasm out of possession was spot on. A moment in the second half saw a St Mirren counter-attack quickly snuffed out after Youan went from first to sixth gear, putting in a sliding challenge to win the ball back, a challenge Jimmy Jeggo would have been proud of. Hibs won a corner from the situation and Lewis Stevenson sought out his team-mate to offer him deserved praise. When the player’s number went up to be replaced in stoppage time the standing ovation he received was of no surprise.

While Mark O’Hara sent an effort just over the bar not long after Hibs fans unfurled banners criticising the coronation, the Buddies rarely troubled the home side before the interval. Declan Gallagher, subbed at half-time, struggled to deal with Kevin Nisbet, overzealous in his approach. It was the Scotland international who lost Will Fish at the corner for the second goal which was defended poorly prior to him doing so.

Elie Youan and Will Fish were on the score sheet for Hibs in their 2-0 win over St Mirren.  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Elie Youan and Will Fish were on the score sheet for Hibs in their 2-0 win over St Mirren.  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Elie Youan and Will Fish were on the score sheet for Hibs in their 2-0 win over St Mirren. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The St Mirren view

It was a lead and a platform which allowed Hibs to grow in confidence and play with panache, Joe Newell setting up Josh Campbell for a shot with a lovely backheel. If Hibs had gone in at half-time further ahead, few would have had complaints. Well, maybe Buddies boss Stephen Robinson.

"The response from the players is all I can ask for,” he said. “I asked them to go out and be brave, step forward. We should have taken something out of the game. We had two great chances from yards out, we should score but ultimately we get punished for individual errors, it happens in the game unfortunately.”

From the 30-minute mark he was happy with his players after they had sat off too much to begin with. The response they got at full-time from a large travelling support suggested the fans thought likewise. Kevin Nisbet nearly scored one of the great team goals of the season but from 60 minutes onwards it was Buddies knocking against the door. Curtis Main passed up a gilt-edged chance before flicking on for Alex Greive to make it 2-1. They huffed and they puffed but they just have the required quality in possession to break the home side down and snatch a valuable point, not helped by a lack of options off the bench with both Jonah Ayunga and Tony Watt injured.

Curtis Main passed up a great chance for St Mirren. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Curtis Main passed up a great chance for St Mirren. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Curtis Main passed up a great chance for St Mirren. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Instead, Hibs took a huge three points on their way towards Europe.

Hibs (4-1-4-1): Marshall; Egan-Riley, Fish, Hanlon, Stevenson; Jeggo; Cadden (Miller 90’), Doyle-Hayes(Campbell 30’), Newell, Youan (Hoppe 90’); Nisbet.

St Mirren (3-5-2): Carson; Fraser, Gallagher (Baccus 46’), Dunne; Strain, Kiltie, Gogic, O’Hara, Tanser; Greive (Jamieson 82’), Main.



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