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Hibernian 2 Livingston 1: Not too bad for starters

THINGS certainly seem to be changing for the better at Hibernian.

Farid El Alagui sends a header into the roof of the net to give Hibernian an early lead					 Photograph: SNS
Farid El Alagui sends a header into the roof of the net to give Hibernian an early lead Photograph: SNS

Towards the end of last season, they couldn't buy a goal for love nor money. Now the goalkeeper is popping them in.

Those long-suffering supporters who yearn for the removal of the chairman, Rod Petrie, are even beginning to believe there might be some light at the end of that particular tunnel.

David Low, the financial adviser leading a consortium that has submitted a £3.5m offer for the club to Sir Tom Farmer, watched the match from the main stand along with former player Paul Kane, whose Forever Hibernian group is keen to establish a model of 51% fan membership and 49% investment.

Those are matters for the future, though; the message from within the club is that there is no desire to push for any kind of immediate sale. The primary reason for cheer in Leith last night was the sight of a first win at Easter Road since February.

Farid El Alagui opened the scoring with a header just after the quarter-hour mark and goalkeeper Mark Oxley, brought in on loan from Hull City, made it two direct from a kick-out before the wheels came off the bogey a little in the second half and Declan Gallagher ensured a nervous closing half hour for the home supporters by getting a goal back for Livingston.

Oxley has been learning a little of Hibernian history. Andy Goram scored twice for the Edinburgh club - once from a punt up the park in a win over Morton in 1988 and then in a penalty shoot-out against Clydebank in the League Cup the following season - and that is a target the Englishman is already aiming to beat.

"Their lad was standing close to me and I couldn't put it down to kick it, so I just smashed it as hard as I could," said Oxley.

"You don't get many chances like that to celebrate, although I have been getting hammered because of the bit of a dance I had on. I had better rehearse in future.Someone told me Andy Goram got two, so I will go for three."

Hibernian, based on a decent first half in which they managed to execute the style of passing football their new manager Alan Stubbs demands, probably deserved the win. However, Livingston could be forgiven for grumbling a little over the way the 16 minutes leading up to the opening goal panned out.

Gallagher rattled the crossbar with a header from a Jason Talbot corner early on and the visitors had a claim to have the play stopped in the build-up to the opener. Danny Mullen had gone down clutching his face at the halfway line following a collision with the home midfielder Scott Robertson, but referee Bobby Madden allowed play to continue and El Alagui won a corner from a shot deflected behind by Gallagher.

Liam Craig produced a fine flag-kick and El Alagui wriggled clear of his marker to direct a header into the roof of the net from a matter of a few yards.

Hibernian's second came just two minutes later and there was no excuse whatsoever for conceding that. Livingston's goalkeeper, Darren Jamieson, appeared so preoccupied with the movements of El Alagui as Oxley's kick-out took its first bounce that he, quite literally, took his eyes off the ball after coming far too far off his line. The second bounce sent it over his head and his embarrassing attempts to backtrack were never going to stop it from landing in the net.

Oxley, meanwhile, hopped and skipped outside his area like an excited puppy before being swamped by his team-mates.

"Darren was disappointed because that flukey goal was the difference between us getting a point and not getting a point," said John McGlynn, the Livingston manager.

"Hibs sprinkled the pitch and it was very quick. He was caught in no man's land and he's just got to learn from it and forget it."

The hosts should have put the game out of sight in the second period with Alex Harris missing a golden opportunity and David Gray sending a shot just over after producing some clever play to make space at the edge of the area.

There had been a warning at the start of the half, though, when the former Hearts striker, Gary Glen, put an effort over the bar from a good position and Livingston would give themselves hope just before the hour mark when breaking through the home rearguard.

Burton O'Brien played a short free kick to Keaghan Jacobs on the right and his curling shot was touched onto the crossbar by Oxley. Gallagher was sharper than anyone in reacting to the rebound, though, and showed commendable coolness for a centre-back when sidefooting the ball home from around eight yards.

Mullen did force a save from Oxley with 20 minutes remaining through a speculative shot from distance, but the visitors failed to put sufficient pressure on Hibs in the closing stages.

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