Ross County 0-2 Hibernian: Hibs bounce back
Scorers: Hibernian - Malonga 22, 36
In pouring rain, Alan Stubbs’ side found the inspiration before the break to pick off a Ross County team toiling amid a terrible run of early-season results.
Malonga was making only his second start and third appearance since arriving as a free agent earlier this month – but the energetic, tricky frontman looks a real find for the Edinburgh club.
County showed promise, particularly early in the game, but displayed frailties in equal measure. Even with Dylan McGeoch taking a late red card, eight minutes from time, the demoralised hosts couldn’t muster a response despite no shortage of effort.
Both camps were in dire need of a morale-boosting victory. The hosts, rock bottom in the Premiership with seven straight defeats, could count only a solitary win this season in the last round of the same competition at Stranraer. Hibs, with four defeats from their last six Championship matches, had scraped past Dumbarton to tee up their Dingwall date.
It was County who threatened first in a high-tempo opening, with Rocco Quinn whistling an early strike from distance just over the bar. Dutchman Melvin De Leeuw then rattled a low strike just wide of Mark Oxley’s goal with four minutes gone.
Malonga served first notice he was in the mood for mischief four minutes later, unleashing a fierce strike just over the bar.
The Frenchman’s time would come, but before then County resumed their assault, with Graham Carey slicing in from the left to fire just wide of the near post and Filip Kiss sclaffing another decent chance.
There were warning signs for the hosts, with Paul Hanlon’s header hacked off the line by Kiss just before the 22nd-minute opener.
Hibs midfielder Liam Craig deserved credit for his cross from the far left but there were question marks over home marking as Malonga strode in to head home from six yards.
County tried to muster a response but matters deteriorated further for Jim McIntyre’s men after 36 minutes.
Again, the hosts were exposed down Hibs’ left with Lewis Stevenson darting forward and delivering an arcing cross. There was Malonga, again, pouncing with another thumping header past keeper Mark Brown.
Hibs, by now, were brimming with belief and there was another close call for County before the break when McGeoch drove forward and tested Brown with some venom. McIntyre had seen enough and County right-back Jim Fenlon was the fall guy, replaced by Richard Brittain just four minutes before the break.
More County disarray early after the break saw David Gray’s delivery from the right side-footed against Brown’s front post by Jason Cummings.
McIntyre was quick to make a second change, introducing Michael Gardyne for De Leeuw and then striker Liam Boyce for Kiss before the hour.
For a spell, the County pressure was building and Boyce went close with a looping header just over from Gardyne’s right-sided cross. Hibs seemed content mostly with containment until McGeoch’s crazy, 82nd minute scything of Joe Cardle at full flight on County’s right flank drew a straight red card from referee Stephen Finnie.
The hosts tried to turn the screw but it summed up their night as a Boyce deflection into the net was chalked off for offside.
Ross County: Brown, Fenlon (Brittain - 41), Frempah, Dreesen, Carey , Kiss (Boyce - 58), Quinn, Cardle, Irvine, De Leeuw (Gardyne - 53), Arquin
Hibernian: Oxley, Hanlon, Forster, Fontaine, Gray, Craig, Stevenson, Robertson, McGeouch, Cummings (Allan - 83), Malonga (Heffernan - 86)