How Hibs turned league campaign around as Scott Allan unlocks St Johnstone door
With ten minutes to go in this match at McDiarmid Park, the picture looked bleak for Hibs.
A goal down to ten-man St Johnstone, staring a sixth straight cinch Premiership defeat in the face, the feelgood factor of last weekend's Premier Sports Cup semi-final win over Rangers had all but evaporated.
Therefore, what happened from the 82nd minute onwards will have huge ramifications on Hibs' season as they grabbed two quick goals to floor the Saints and move back into the top six.
They had trailed their hosts from the 40th minute via an unfortunate own goal from Ryan Porteous. Before that, they had looked the better team without really truly threatening, but the game changed when St Johnstone's Craig Bryson was sent off on the stroke of half time. Hibs completely battered their opponents thereafter and, inspired by substitute Scott Allan, struck late through Kevin Nisbet and Jamie Murphy to take the spoils.
The magnitude of this win cannot be overplayed, given the disquiet among Hibs fans emanating from five league defeats in a row. Hibs have hardly morphed into a bad team in the past few weeks but, with results not picking up, there was a real danger of confidence dropping and this season starting to resemble a slog in the bottom six.
Without the suspended Martin Boyle and Christian Doidge, Hibs came to Perth depleted in the forward department. Nisbet, with only one goal to his name in two months, led the line. He had two goals chalked off and was at times frustrated, but he played well and grabbed such an important goal.
Saints are not in the best of health either, and this result will damage them. Without Chris Kane, Glen Middleton, David Wotherspoon and Stevie May, they were meek for much of this match. Finnish striker Eetu Vertainen was given his first start, but was sacrificed at half time as Saints tried to shore up. He wasn't missed.
They did, however, take the lead. When Ali Crawford's original corner was cleared back to him, he took the ball down on his chest at pace and sent it to the far post where Liam Gordon rose highest. His header was on target but not likely to find the net without Porteous diverting it over the line.
What happened minutes later will frustrate St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson. Booked for a crass tackle earlier on Porteous, Bryson caught Joe Newell late with a daft challenge on the stroke of half time and referee Euan Anderson had little option but to send him off.
Hibs pegged St Johnstone back straight from the restart. Hanlon ought to have done better than a fresh-air swipe when the ball landed to him on 48 minutes and then, two minutes later, Chris Cadden thumped a shot off the crossbar.
Hibs dominated the ball, creating chance after chance. Saints were clinging on with 15 minutes to go, and it felt like if Hibs scored one, they would open the floodgates.
With Murphy and Allan already brought on, Jack Ross introduced James Scott in an all-out attack approach. St Johnstone had dropped too deep, allowing Hibs to build up play. The equaliser duly came on 83 minutes. Allan was involved, finding Nisbet in the box with a cute pass and the striker emphatically finished.
Now for the knock-out blow. Allan was again instrumental. The midfielder pirouetted into space and kept his composure in the box, stroking the ball across the goal to find Murphy unmarked. His low finish sparked wild scenes in the away end and and secured such a key win.