THERE was discord after the fact. Ross County manager Derek Adams thought his side had been worthy of at least a draw, maybe even good enough to win it. His Hibs counterpart, Terry Butcher, was having none of it.
Like their manager, the Easter Road players had held their ground. Having established a 2-0 half-time lead, they came under a bit more pressure in the second half. But, while even Butcher conceded things were a bit more frantic than they needed to be after the visitors pulled a goal back, the anxiety in the Hibs ranks and in the stands was all their own doing.
Having gone five games without a win, getting dumped out the Scottish Cup by Championship side Raith Rovers, there was an obvious desperation to stop the rot. With the Highlanders packed into the box , the last kick of the match was a Tom Taiwo clearance and the way he elaborated when the referee brought matters to a close showed just how much the three points meant.
They had triumphed over a side immersed in the battle to avoid a relegation play-off but, given the circumstances, it meant just as much as a win over anyone at the top of the table.
Brought back into the fold in recent weeks, Taiwo has benefitted from the injuries and suspensions picked up by other central midfielders and has made the most of his opportunity.
But he isn’t the only one looking to bounce back from disappointment. “We knew ourselves that we’d been on a disappointing run and we needed to get a result against Ross County,” said Lewis Stevenson, who joined him in the midfield. “Maybe it wasn’t pretty at times but the most important thing was getting the result.” It was a midfield which weighed in with the goals and helped control the game for long spells.
The first strike gave them confidence and the foundation to build on, and it came early in the match courtesy of Sam Stanton. With just nine minutes gone, he capitalised on Rocco Quinn’s rash tackle on him, slamming home the free-kick for his second in two games.
“He is different class and although he has only played three games it looks as if he’s played 300,” Stevenson enthused. “He’s got a lot of confidence on the ball and he’s got a jink and that technique. I just tell him to focus on his own game and enjoy it. I honestly believe he will go on to bigger and better things if he keeps doing what he’s doing for Hibs.
“Teams will be looking at him but he just needs to keep his feet on the ground. He’s a quiet lad and has the makings of a top player. I don’t think things faze him and he never looks nervous before a game. He’s calm and he almost has a foreign outlook on the game in that he sometimes takes chances, but nine times out of ten it pays off for us. He’s been a great addition for us, almost like a new signing and if he keeps his form going he is going to be a big player for us.”
Taiwo added the second on 24 minutes after Hibs hit their guests on the counter attack, Ross County conceding possession while one of their own, Yoann Arquin, was injured. The strike from a central position in the box left keeper Mark Brown with no chance.
Ross County felt that because Graham Carey came close on a couple of occasions and Arquin’s effort hit the bar they merited something but the truth is that Hibs could have added to their tally before Richard Brittain reduced the deficit in the 58th minute from a freekick.
Jordon Forster’s header was parried on to the post and cleared off the line as Danny Haynes tried to force it over and Danny Handling should have squared to Haynes but shot instead.
Having got a goal back, County went in search of an equaliser but Hibs refused to crumble. “We showed a lot of character and defended brilliantly,” said Stevenson.