HIBERNIAN may have been making more of a fist of things at the start of the season, but their finger is being drawn once more to the self-destruct button.
After failing to win a league game since the turn of the year – and scoring just a single goal in the process – it was the turn of St Johnstone to benefit from the Easter Road club's dismal league run. Their last win came in a 1-0 triumph over Celtic on December 29, but any sign of the resolve and organisation that frustrated the SPL champions that afternoon has long since departed.
Hibs were chasing shadows last night and ultimately a lost cause after just 26 minutes as Rowan Vine's double, courtesy of some truly woeful defending, allowed St Johnstone to canter into the distance. The fact Ben Williams' penalty save at 2-0 down failed to trigger a reaction offers a worrying insight into the Hibs camp.
Not only did the home side allow Vine to run in unmarked to net the first before giving him space to conjure his second from nothing just three minutes later, but Hibs also conspired to give their visitors a needless penalty, all with time left to ship a sloppy goal in the second half.
"It's bitterly disappointing, it's not good enough," said Pat Fenlon, the Hibs manager. "After the first goal there was nothing in the game, but after that we were all over the place. We have an experienced team, we shouldn't be losing our shape and discipline. St Johnstone played really well. They worked really hard, but we didn't have that tonight."
Hibs' latest setback was as much down to their own defensive incompetence as the clinical finishing from their visitors. Their first goal came giftwrapped, with Vine happy to accept. The St Johnstone forward picked the ball up on the left wing before cutting inside beyond Matt Done, who was making his league debut for Hibs, to flick the ball to Steven Maclean.
The striker's ferocious drive was parried unconvincingly by goalkeeper Williams, only for Vine to drive between the static Hibs defence and smash the ball low and hard into the net.
"I was delighted, the lads were exceptional from start to finish," said Steve Lomas, the St Johnstone manager. "We played Viney out wide because he likes coming in off his left foot, it worked a treat."
Three minutes later it was two. Murray Davidson's deflected shot eventually found it's way to Vine at the edge of the box, with the 30-year-old's quick feet leaving former McDiarmid Park defender Alan Maybury flat-footed and helpless with the Englishman sweeping the ball high into the far corner.
It took only seven more minutes for Hibs' generous mood to return. This time it was Ryan McGivern's charitable and needless lunge on Mehdi Abeid that offered St Johnstone the chance to score, but Steven Maclean could only watch as Williams attempted to keep his side in the contest with a fine safe.
Half-time brought a sense of expectation and ultimately disappointment; the killer blow to Hibs' hopes being landed by former defender Pat Cregg on 58 minutes. Fine interplay between the St Johnstone midfield resulted in the ball working it's way to Murray Davidson on the edge of the area. His perfect pass penetrated the home backline and Cregg was allowed space after shaking off Hibs new boy Scott Robertson to pick his spot from six yards.
"I'm not sure what Paddy was doing up there," said Lomas, whose side now leapfrog Hibs into fourth place.
The fact Hibs did find the target eventually would have come as a surprise to most inside Easter Road, at least to those of the 8735 who hung around long enough to see it. Leigh Griffiths wrestled free of David McCracken to latch on to a long clearance and go one-on-one with Alan Mannus, with the Wolves striker finishing calmly on 82 minutes.
"We'll look at the team over the next few days," added Fenlon. "We need to look forward to the St Mirren game and try to put a team out that can win us the match. We've got some young boys who are chomping at the bit to play so we will look at them."
hibernian 1 st johnstone 3 Easter Road club's slump continues