How Hibs leapfrogged Celtic with performance full of panache and swagger at Hamilton
The last time Hibs and Hamilton met, Jack Ross’ men threatened to throw away a three-goal advantage, allowing their opponents to generate a bit of panic as they scored twice to make it 3-2.
But, with so much at stake in this match and with them looking like they are getting back to their best just in time for a busy, important festive period, the Easter Road side deserved to leave Hamilton with four goals, a clean sheet and the three points that elevates them into second place above Celtic – albeit the Parkhead side have three games in hand.
So much of Hibs’ early-season success came from the balance of the side and their ability to protect their own goal while pressuring their rivals.
After a tricky spell where that equilibrium seemed to desert them, they have bounced back with two wins, producing seven goals without reply and earning them six points. They have a healthy swagger as they take a break from Premiership action and, temporarily, switch focus to the Betfred Cup, hoping they can sweep by Alloa on Tuesday evening and book their place in the semi-finals.
It took the until the tenth minute to open the scoring, but in one of their most emphatically consistent and composed performances of the season, they already looked well in control by that stage and did not relinquish a grip on proceedings until the final whistle.
Against the backdrop of a tried and tested defensive line-up, manager Jack Ross tweaked the formation and the personnel and still managed to find a way to ensure a fluidity and attacking prowess that Hamilton had no way of repelling.
Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano was able to enjoy one of his quietest games of the season as Paul Hanlon marshalled the troops perfectly. Melker Hallerg and Joe Newell pulled the strings in the middle of the park and, ahead of them, the creativity, pace, industry, vision and link up play of Martin Boyle, Kevin Nisbet and Drey Wright unsettled the home side and fed off the physicality and tireless running of Christian Doidge.
Story of the match
The opener was a soft one for Hamilton to give away, coming from an unnecessary Charlie Trafford nudge on Ryan Porteous in the box. Martin Boyle scored from the spot.
The second came in the 31st minute when a ball was crossed in from the left and Hibs’ Welsh striker got a head to it to direct it into the net.
Extremely comfortable, they could have been further ahead as Newell, Nisbet and Doidge all came close. But the important thing was to deny Hamilton any hope of a comeback when they re-emerged for the second half and they did that with aplomb.
Newell, Nisbet and Wright tested the defence and the keeper as the Capital side showed some wonderful movement and nippy passing that stretched Hamiton and opened up space for the visitors to attack.
The third goal arrived in the 64th minute, and was a result of that fluidity and team play, passing the ball from back to front, from one flank to the other before Paul McGinn wrapped up the impressive interplay with an angled finish to maintain the McGinn family’s recent goal run.
Three minutes later and Nisbet completed the scoring, reacting quickest to net from close range.
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