AFTER a week of soul searching, Hibernian finally found what they were looking for yesterday.
It may have taken a William Hill Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Raith Rovers to do make it happen, but the Easter Road side rediscovered their swagger as they strolled to what was a more convincing win than the final scoreline suggests.
In front early on through a sublime Sam Stanton free-kick and a neat finish from Tom Taiwo, the Edinburgh side held firm as County tried to get back into the game, eventually seeing the contest out comfortably despite Richard Brittain's free-kick bringing the visitors back into proceedings.
Hibs had lost their previous three league games as well as the cup tie and manager Terry Butcher said: "It was a lovely three points. I don't know what to do this weekend because we've won.
"I was walking along the beach this morning with the dog and thinking 'I don't want to go through another week like this'. It seems as if it's been going on for ages. I'm ecstatic because we got a fantastic reaction from the players."
County were caught cold in the first half by a purposeful Hibs who relentlessly piled forward. The effervescent figure of Notts County loanee Danny Haynes led the line with speed and trickery on his first start and it took his team only 10 minutes for them to breach the visiting defence, Stanton swept a sumptuous central free-kick high into the net from 25 yards after being upended by Rocco Quinn.
"He surprised me - I didn't celebrate I was in shock," Butcher said. "When the boys have been doing free-kicks before, they've been pants. When Sam scored, we thought 'wow'."
The second goal came 14 minutes later, the lively Haynes carrying the ball to the byeline, drawing two defenders in the process, before cutting the ball back to the penalty spot where Danny Handling and Taiwo were lurking.
The former stepped aside for his team-mate and Taiwo took his time before picking his spot in the bottom left-hand corner. County were not without their opportunities. Jordan Slew's header from a deflected Brittain cross trickled and bounced its way along the bar before dropping out of danger, while Graham Carey was denied by Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams and his own lack of composure as he rushed two shots after the break which he should have done more with.
If County's finishing was less than convincing at times, their defending was equally suspect. It was panic stations after 55 minutes as a Hibs corner to the near post was flicked on by Jordon Forster, with a combination of Mark Brown and the upright just about stopping the ball from crossing the line. Haynes then appeared to bundle it over, only for referee Bobby Madden to say otherwise.
Just before the hour, Brittain copied Stanton by bending a fine effort high into the net to make it 2-1.
However, if anything Hibs grew stronger as a result of losing the goal and held on for a victory that takes them within a point of the SPFL Premiership's top six, while County linger ominously in 10th.
"We lost two soft goals to start with, and Hibs didn't have to work for anything," said Dingwall manager Derek Adams. "We have got to win against teams like Hibs away from home. Graham Carey had a couple of guilt-edged chances for us and if we'd made it 2-2 we could have gone on to win."