A total of 3,319 days have passed between a 2-0 win for the Edinburgh club on August 25, 2012 and this cinch Premiership encounter, which Hibs edged 1-0. In the intervening period, both teams have lifted the Scottish Cup – Saints twice, once by beating Hibs – managers have come and gone, and European runs have been embarked on.
The two captains here, though, played in 2012. Paul Hanlon scored for Hibs to set them on their way to a 2-0 win that summer’s day, while Liam Craig was in Saints’ midfield. Craig, now a veteran, was making his 441st appearance for St Johnstone, equalling the club record set by Steven Anderson. It was as good as the day got for him and his team-mates, who will feel aggrieved not to have taken something from this encounter.
St Johnstone were on a five-match unbeaten streak against Jack Ross’ men and that run looked likely to be extended had Hibs not been awarded a hotly-disputed penalty on the hour mark.
A lull had hit both teams, having given a fair amount in the opening period, but after a cleverly-worked throw-in, Joe Newell cut the ball back to Martin Boyle. The Australian’s shot was heading on target, but struck St Johnstone defender Jamie McCart. Hibs appealed for a penalty, the rebound fizzed towards referee John Beaton, forcing him to duck, and as he emerged from his squat he dramatically pointed to the spot. Beaten deemed the ball to have hit the defender’s arm. Saints boss Callum Davidson thought otherwise, and McCart was only a yard or so away from Boyle. Had VAR been in operation here, it may have been overturned. St Johnstone protested – boy did they protest, with McCart and Craig booked – but Boyle converted the penalty.
Fifteen minutes later, things got a whole lot worse for St Johnstone when McCart was shown a second yellow card for dissent. It summed up the afternoon for the defender, courted heavily by Hibs in the summer.
Beaton had a poor game, missing too many fouls and making too many mistakes. Saints will have cause to recall that he was the referee that awarded Hibs a stoppage-time penalty when Hibs defeated St Johnstone in the first meeting of last season in Perth, Stevie Mallan converting after Liam Gordon was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Porteous. That fact was not lost on Davidson after the match.
St Johnstone played well, just on the wrong side of lady luck. They gave Hibs a right good battle. Shaun Rooney had their best chances and they pushe to the end, even with ten men. There’s little to worry about down Perth way.
There are even less concerns in Leith. Aside from finally defeating St Johnstone, this was a huge win. Hibs head to Ibrox on Sunday full of confidence. Ryan Porteous was again a rock at the back, and Scott Allan prompted and probed. With a full week’s rest, while Rangers are in Prague midweek, Hibs have cause to lick their lips at a trip west.