The same shape and almost the same line-up that had bestowed Jack Ross’ men with bounce and belief and served up a winning run of results in recent weeks, against a Motherwell side brimming with energy and determined to press them in possession the Leithers had an uncomfortable afternoon.
Mis-firing in every department, too many of their go-to men under-performed. Defensively they looked vulnerable and jittery, and going forward there was no cutting edge as the game passed them by.
There had been good news in the build up as they managed to sign up both Joe Newell and Josh Doig on extended contracts. But while the former was in the starting line, the latter was a notable absentee after failing a late fitness test. His pace and drive and crosses were missed as the rearguard put on a sloppy showing and the front line failed to get in behind their guests.
There were last-gasp blocks from Darren McGregor, as Allan Campbell prepared to pull the trigger at the edge of the box, and Paul McGinn, who took the sting out of Devante Cole’s effort.
At that stage there was little between the teams. Closely marked, Martin Boyle had improvised with a back header in the opening 10 minutes but he was wide of target and Chris Cadden, one of Hibs better performers, then tried to swerve a shot into the top corner but that veered wide.
Motherwell also had chances, though, and Tony Watt found the side netting.
Ofir Marciano then had to rush out and smother a ball played upfield for Devante Cole to chase.
Given that the game was so finely balanced, the way Motherwell’s opening goal seemed to demoralise the home side was surprising. Robbed of their counter-attacking threat, lethargy and doubt sneaked in. The passing was also slack and there was a lack of invention.
It was on loan Hearts player Jordan Roberts who did the damage, racing onto Tony Watt’s pass, and outpacing Hanlon, before calmly slotting beyond Marciano.
There was frustration in the home ranks at the way the afternoon was panning out and that intensified just a minute after the break, when Roberts laid on the pass for Devante Cole to make the most of.
That prompted swift action from Hibs boss Jack Ross who made three changes but, having switched from a 3-4-1-2 to a 4-4-2, there was still a problem with supply and even when service was provided the clinical edge was missing. Newell found the side netting and, from close range, Doidge he had one effort saved by Liam Kelly. The keeper foiled him again soon after and when there was space to aim at with the follow up, his header was off target.
But, Hibs never really looked like coming back at Graham Alexander’s which made his red card towards the end for a get-it-up-you gesture when Hibs failed to capitalise on a disputed corner all the more embarrassing.