Hibs beat St Johnstone to ease pressure on Montgomery

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Hibs beat St Johnstone to ease pressure on Montgomery

Hibernian eased the pressure on Nick Montgomery with a convincing 3-1 win at St Johnstone which left the home side still with relegation concerns.

A lot of attention was on Hibs boss Montgomery after the Easter Road board publicly described his failure to lead them into the top six in the cinch Premiership as “simply unacceptable”.

However, his side responded positively in the first post-split fixture at McDiarmid Park with Emiliano Marcondes’ wonderful free-kick giving the visitors the lead after only six minutes before substitute Paul Hanlon added a second just before the break.

Second-half substitute Dylan Vente fired in a third after 76 minutes before Saints substitute Benjamin Kimpioka scored a consolation in the 89th minute for the home side.

With four matches remaining Craig Levein’s men are still just one point above Ross County in the relegation play-off spot, the Staggies losing at bottom-side Livingston.

How Hibs cruised to victory

Saints were looking for their third successive win over Hibs and skipper Liam Gordon returned to the defence with Graham Carey and 16-year-old Fran Franczak also starting while, for the Edinburgh side, 37-year-old Adam Le Fondre replaced injured Elie Youan.

Hibs’ opener came after winger Martin Boyle was fouled by midfielder Dan Phillips 25 yards from goal, between the posts.

Danish attacking midfielder Marcondes, on loan from Bournemouth, took his time before curling his perfect free-kick past diving Saints ‘keeper Dimitar Mitov and into the top corner.

The home side had a great chance to level minutes later when Marcondes lost possession in the middle of the pitch but Hibs ‘keeper David Marshall blocked Adama Sidibeh’s shot.

Then Marcondes set up Myziane Maolida inside the box at the other end and his shot was tipped onto the bar and over by Mitov.

In the 35th minute Maolida was brought down just outside the penalty area by Perth defender Ryan McGowan and a VAR check ruled out a possible penalty but this time Marcondes fired the free-kick over the bar, before Boyle ended a lengthy, driving run by flicking the ball straight at Mitov.

PERTH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 27: Hibernian's Paul Hanlon celebrates scoring to make it 2-0 with Joe Newell (R) during a cinch Premiership match between St Johnstone and Hibernian at McDiarmid Park, on April 27, 2024, in Perth, Scotland.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Image: Hibernian’s Paul Hanlon celebrates his goal with Joe Newell (R)

However, after St Johnstone failed to clear from a long Joe Newell throw-in, the ball fell to Hanlon, on for Will Fish midway through the first half, and at the second attempt he knocked it in from 12 yards, his first goal since May 2023.

The Perth men’s response after the break lacked real conviction and in the 54th minute Phillips had to clear a shot from Maolida off the line after the Leith side had countered with pace and purpose.

Mitov produced a fine save from Marcondes’ drive as Hibs threatened again, initially through Maolida.

PERTH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 27: Hibernian's Dylan Vente celebrates scoring to make it 3-0 during a cinch Premiership match between St Johnstone and Hibernian at McDiarmid Park, on April 27, 2024, in Perth, Scotland.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Image: Dylan Vente celebrates scoring to make it 3-0 to Hibs

The game stretched further with Hibs a regular threat and, minutes after coming off the bench, Josh Campbell and Vente combined with the latter racing clear of the Saints defence to latch on to a header and confidently nestle the ball behind Mitov.

The Saints keeper made a good save from Campbell in the 86th minute before Kimpioka, on for Sidibeh, converted from close range.

What the managers said…

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery: “I thought the performance was good and the result what we deserved. That’s not always been the case this season. We’ve dominated so many games on stats and possession but they don’t win you games.

“Putting the ball in the back of the net and being clinical in those moments does and we were today. But we weren’t as clinical as we should’ve been because, if we’re honest, we could’ve scored another four goals – minimum – but their goalkeeper pulled off some great saves.

“A couple of weeks ago at Easter Road it was a real deflating, disappointing result and again their keeper pulled off four or five great saves. We totally dominated. What might’ve been, could’ve been, doesn’t matter.

“What does is that we came here, showed good character and the boys put in a good performance. We come away with three points after what’s been a difficult couple of weeks.

“It’s a good group of lads, I’ve never questioned their character. The only question we’ve had is a bit of bad luck throughout the season. Sometimes you have to make your own luck, defend in key moments and probably disappointed we conceded the goal. Other than that, really happy with the result.”

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: “It was frustrating. We didn’t start the game particularly well. Hibs scored a great goal at the start, but our decision-making and our execution of passes was really, really poor.

“We had a situation where we’d have two or three passes, give it away, have to run back the whole length of the pitch to recover it and then do the same thing again and again and again.

“We’ve had other performances like that and they have come back and performed really well for two or three games before maybe throwing another one in – and it is the inconsistency that is the nub of it.

“I don’t know if we are going to turn up and perform at a good level, which we have done on a number of occasions, or whether we will turn up and make poor decisions and execute things poorly.”

What’s next?

St Johnstone’s next Scottish Premiership match is away to Aberdeen on May 4, while Hibs are away to Ross County.

Both games kick off at 3pm.

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