Hibs verdict: Anxious week awaits Nick Montgomery and Co, Ben Kensell cops it from one fan, jeers ring out

Hibs are saved by the Well – for now – as familiar failings cost them against St Johnstone

The wind and St Johnstone blew Hibs completely off course for their top-six ambitions at Easter Road, only for Motherwell to offer an unlikely parachute 36 miles north at Dens Park.

At one point on Saturday afternoon, Hibs had crashed into to post-split wilderness. Trailing to St Johnstone, Dundee were 2-0 up against the Steelmen and four points clear of Nick Montgomery’s men going into the final round of regular fixtures. Motherwell’s inspired comeback to win 3-2 means that they and Hibs, for now, have a chance of nipping ahead of the Dee – despite falling to a 2-1 defeat in Edinburgh.

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Dundee have 39 points with a goal difference of -10, Hibs are on 38 points with a goal difference of -7 and Motherwell are on 36 points with a goal difference of -5. Dundee can put the race for the final top-six berth to bed should they beat Rangers on Wednesday and a point would eliminate Stuart Kettlewell’s men from the equation. But if the Gers prevail at Dens Park, then it’s all to play for next weekend. Dundee are at Aberdeen, while Motherwell and Hibs meet at Fir Park.

St Johnstone's Tony Gallacher celebrates as the Hibs players look on disconsolately.St Johnstone's Tony Gallacher celebrates as the Hibs players look on disconsolately.
St Johnstone's Tony Gallacher celebrates as the Hibs players look on disconsolately.

Defend like they did against St Johnstone, though, and they will have little chance of meeting what is deemed as a minimum expectation for the Easter Road club. Adama Sidibeh sprinted past a dozy Rocky Bushiri to open the scoring on 49 minutes and then, after Chris Cadden had levelled six minutes later, Hibs failed to defend a pretty basic corner kick on 81 minutes and Tony Gallacher hooked home a volley for his first career goal. Unsurprisingly, the Hibs fans flooded for the exits and those that remained booed loudly at full time.

Hibs had been in reasonable form up until this match, their only defeat in six outings coming against Rangers. But while they have a pretty well-stocked armoury in attack, defence continues to be a real problem for this team. Centre-half Will Fish came off ill at half-time, which did not help their cause. They created enough chances to find a winner at 1-1 but Saints goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov produced a string of excellent saves, winning his personal battle with the hosts’ forward Myziane Maolida and atoning for a poor error last week against Dundee.

Montgomery and his players traipsed around the stadium at the end to applaud what little home support was left but the response from their faithful was far from warm. High up in the main stand, chief executive Ben Kensell copped it from one angry fan who was not shy in making his feelings known. This is the third season in a row that Hibs have been left in top-six limbo at this point in a campaign – a situation that is simply not good enough for a club of such size and ambition.

The match was blighted by strong gusts from Storm Kathleen. The first half, in particular, was affected. The most notable moment came early on when Hibs made reasonable claims for a penalty. On nine minutes, Mitov challenged Emi Marcondes for a high ball and made contact with the Hibs player. VAR took a look but no further action was taken. Less than a mile away, Edinburgh City’s match at Meadowbank against Montrose was abandoned due to the conditions. At one point, Marcondes could not take a corner as the ball was blown off the spot.

Hibs had an early claim for a penalty when Dimitar Mitov collided with Emi Marcondes.Hibs had an early claim for a penalty when Dimitar Mitov collided with Emi Marcondes.
Hibs had an early claim for a penalty when Dimitar Mitov collided with Emi Marcondes.

The second half was much livelier. Saints scampered away on the break on 49 minutes, Matt Smith sending the rapid Sidibeh clear of Bushiri and his swept finish across goal was emphatic. Hibs, to their credit, rallied swiftly and levelled six minutes later. Nathan Moriah-Welsh strode forward and played in Maolida and while his shot was saved by Mitov, the ball fell to Cadden and he netted well.

At this point, Hibs looked like the probable winner. But Mitov had other ideas. He showed quick reflexes to flick an Adam Le Fondre header over the bar and then made three good saves from Maolida, all before the crucial moment arrived on 81 minutes. It is a goal Hibs too often concede. Graham Carey’s corner was far from vicious but it found its way to Gallacher to squeeze a volley back across goal and into the far corner.

That was to be it, despite a flurry of late Hibs set-plays. St Johnstone take a precious step towards avoiding a relegation play-off, now four points clear of 11th-placed Ross County. Their manager Craig Levein left Leith with a big smile on his face. Montgomery’s mood was far darker. Hibs should not be in this predicament given their resources. A win would have put a top-six place firmly in their hands. Now an anxious week awaits for all concerned at Easter Road.



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