James Scott hat-trick helps Hibs finish on a high as St Johnstone prioritise play-off survival

A James Scott hat-trick helped Hibs secure a happy ending to an otherwise dismal campaign but for St Johnstone the priority is on next week's play-off battle against Inverness.

James Scott celebrates as he makes it 3-0 to Hibs against St Johnstone at Easter Road. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
James Scott celebrates as he makes it 3-0 to Hibs against St Johnstone at Easter Road. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

This time last year the two sides were preparing for a Scottish Cup final on the back of a season that saw the Easter Road side claim a third place finish for the first time in 16 years, while Saints had secured fifth place, Europe, and would go on to complete a historic cup double at Hampden.

Fast forward 12 months and the decline at both clubs has been stark. For Hibs, this win secured eighth place in the Premiership - a small crumb of comfort given beforehand it was still possible for the Edinburgh side to finish as low as 10th after a campaign that saw them dispense with two managers and end with David Gray in caretaker charge.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Saints plight is much worse with their top flight survival dependant on overcoming promotion-chasing Inverness in a pressure cooker play-off, with the first leg at the Caledonian Stadium on Friday ahead of the return at McDiarmid Park next Sunday.

That was evident in manager Callum Davidson making six changes to his starting line-up for the dead rubber Leith clash with key men such as Zander Clark, Liam Gordon, Murray Davidson and Callum Hendry all rested, and despite a sprightly start from the visitors, those changes ultimately took their toll as the match ran away from the Perth side.

For Hibs, the 4-0 win was perhaps their way of saying sorry to the home fans for a season to forget, but while most at the club will be glad to draw a line under it as they look to reset and rebuild under a new manager, with an appointment expected this week, for one player the summer break is coming at the wrong time.

Scott has endured a tough time since joining the club on a season-long loan from Hull City in August but has found his form - and his scoring touch - in the past few weeks culminating in him claiming the match ball from this end of season encounter.

His first goal, which came three minutes into the second half after Paul McGinn had bundled home the opener just before the break, was the stroke of luck that the 21-year-old could have done with in the early stages of his Hibs career, the ball deflecting into the net via his thigh as he threw his body towards a Harry Clarke cross.

If that was a stroke of fortune, there was nothing lucky about his next finish as a sweet first-time strike from Joe Newell's cut-back on the hour mark put the home side three up, before his crowning moment arrived two minutes from time.

The applause was only just dying down from his announcement as man of the match when Josh Doig slung a deep cross to the back post where Scott cushioned a superb header back across goal and inside the post.

It ensured a warm atmosphere inside Easter Road – something of a rarity this season – as Hibs players said their farewells, one or two perhaps for the final time, with a full-time lap around the pitch.

Saints, though, will not be dwelling on this one.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.