THERE is nothing half-baked about Hibernian’s prospects as they challenge for Europe on their Premiership return. That said, Neil Lennon suggested wryly he would have stuck his head in the oven and turned up the gas had Hibs let their Dingwall lead slip.

The Easter Road side had to come from behind twice to draw against St Johnstone and Dundee in recent weeks and then let a 2-0 lead disintegrate in the draw with Motherwell. This time, Paul Hanlon’s early strike proved enough.

Lennon, like a man possessed in the technical area, longs for a peaceful afternoon with his feet up.

“If we’d have drawn today I’d have been sticking my head in the oven,” the former Celtic captain said. “Every time we go away from home the opposition goalkeeper seems to come away with a man-of-the-match performance. One of these days, hopefully, we’ll start to flow and win more comfortably – and then I can sit on my backside and enjoy it.”

For all his histrionics in the dug-out, Lennon left Dingwall a contented man.

“It was one of those days again when we’ve bombarded the goal. Again, we’ve created brilliant chances,” he said. “I think we deserved to win. I’m delighted with the clean sheet.

“I’m frustrated with the chances we’re missing because we could have won the game comfortably. But I’ll take that – it’s a big, big win in the context of the season. It was important to win because we hadn’t since Ibrox and that gets us comfortably in the top six. It’s been a good week with the League Cup semi-final booked as well.”

It proved another frustrating day for Ross County who slipped to second bottom in the table just above next weekend’s opponents Kilmarnock. Now with five defeats in six games, the Dingwall men again paid for their lack of killer touch when it mattered.

New dad Scott Fox reclaimed his goalkeeper’s jersey from Aaron McCarey after his well-publicised mistake against Rangers. It was to be a superb comeback, with several fine saves lessening the damage. But Hibs also had to count on their goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw with second-half saves from Michael Gardyne and Alex Schalk as luck evaded County later in the game.

It proved a bright, positive Hibs start with Martin Boyle’s lightning runs posing a threat from the right side of a three-pronged attack. County struggled to get a grip on the ball and Hibs’ early control was confirmed when they scored after 13 minutes.

John McGinn’s corner was poorly cleared and broke to Hanlon square on goal, eight yards out. The defender had no problem beating Fox.

County steadied, though, and remained competitive with both keepers’ saves proving exceptional as the second period unfolded.

Gardyne’s seven-yard snapshot was somehow pushed on to the post and clear by Laidlaw and entering the final 15 minutes, Fox made a sharp save down low as Anthony Stokes made a powerful low attempt.

Fox was then spectacular in denying Stokes again as the ex-Celtic striker strode between two County defenders but the home keeper leapt full stretch to touch his attempt away.

Substitute chalk then wove into space outside the area and drew a superb parry from Laidlaw.

“We asked the players to keep being brave and keep taking the game to them. They didn’t shirk it,” home manager Jim McIntyre said. “When we needed Foxy to make saves he made saves, but equally their keeper did too.

“Unfortunately for us, the way it is going just now, in key moments we’re not doing it well enough, but we’re

definitely not far away.”

ROSS COUNTY: (4-4-2) – Fox 8; Naismith 6, Fraser 7, Davies 6, Van der Weg 6; Tumilty 5 (Keillor-Dunn 46, 6), O’Brien 7, Draper 6 (Lindsay 64, 5), Gardyne 6; Curran 6 (Schalk 63, 6), Mckay 6. Subs: McCarey, Chow, Kelly, Mikkelsen.

Booked: Draper 56, O’Brien 67

HIBERNIAN: (4-3-3-) – Laidlaw 7; Whittaker 6, Ambrose 6, Hanlon 7, Stevenson 6; Bartley 7, McGinn 7, McGeoch 7 (Slivka 85, 3); Boyle 7, Stokes 7, S. Murray 7 (Matulevicius 85, 3). Subs: Marciano, Swanson, Martin, F. Murray, Porteous.

Booked: Bartley 56

Referee: Andrew Dallas