By: Hibernian Media on 12 Aug, 2018 17:30
Hibernian fought back to claim share of the points in Perth on Sunday afternoon and maintain their unbeaten start to the new campaign, writes Richard Payne.
The Easter Road men were unlucky to fall behind to a deflected first half effort from Tony Watt after going close on several occasions during the first period.
Martin Boyle was denied by a series of inspired stops by goalkeeper Zander Clark and Jamie Maclaren was denied a first goal of the season by a goal-line clearance from Steven Anderson, as Hibernian entered the break trailing.
Not for the first time Hibernian showed remarkable resilience to battle back and deservedly levelled through Oli Shaw’s second half header.
Stevie Mallan, Boyle, Lewis Stevenson, Daryl Horgan and Florian Kamberi had opportunities after that to notch Hibernian ahead however it took a terrific late block from Efe Ambrose to prevent Blair Alston snatching victory for the Perth men.
Neil Lennon made four changes on the back of Hibernian’s midweek European contest with Molde FK as new recruits Emerson Hyndman and Jamie Maclaren made their first starts of the campaign.
Fellow new signing, Horgan, had to be content with a place on the bench, where he was joined by midweek starters David Gray, Vykintas Slivka, Marvin Bartley and Kamberi.
The heavy rain made the playing surface slick and the hosts made best use of it in the opening exchanges with former Hibee Matty Kennedy shooting over the crossbar during the early exchanges.
The visitors responded almost immediately when Hyndman and Shaw linked up well before the striker stung the hands of Clark with a powerful effort.
In the 8th minute Clark was involved again as the St Johnstone goalkeeper was forced to push Shaw’s header round his near post as Hibernian went close.
Shaw had another opportunity soon after as he rose to get his head on Mallan’s corner kick, however the striker was unable to guide he effort on target this time.
Hibernian were on top and pressing hard for the game’s opening goal. In the 13th minute they were desperately unlucky not to score when Boyle’s cut back found Maclaren only for the Aussie’s shot to be cleared off the line by Anderson and Stevenson to fire the rebound wide.
The Easter Road men were in the ascendancy, yet St Johnstone fired a warning shot across their bow when Murray Davidson latched onto a slack clearance and almost found the net with a first-time strike.
Tommy Wright’s men took the lead against the run of play in the 22nd minute when Mallan was robbed of possession by Watt inside the Hibernian box and his cross took a wicked deflection off Ryan Porteous to beat Ross Laidlaw.
Buoyed by the opening goal St Johnstone pressed and it took a good save from Laidlaw to prevent Drey Wright from doubling the host’s advantage.
Boyle appeared Hibernian’s most likely avenue back into the match and he was denied a leveler when Clark got down quickly to get a strong right hand behind the ball to keep out the winger’s powerful shot after he had been put through on goal.
Boyle was put through again moments later by a lovely dink from Mallan only for Anderson to hook off the line with Maclaren lurking nearby.
St Johnstone almost profited from more slack play from their opponents when Mallan gifted possession away and the hosts broke. The ball was worked wide to Kennedy and he was denied by a stunning save from Laidlaw - high to the keeper’s left.
Striker Maclaren claimed for a penalty kick shortly before the interval after appearing to be pulled back by Anderson when in the act of shooting, however match official William Collum was unmoved by his appeals.
Hibernian deservedly levelled five minutes after the break when the Saints defence failed to cut-out Boyle’s deep cross and Shaw headed in from close range.
The goal was little more than the Easter Road men deserved and in the moments that followed both Mallan and Boyle went close only to be thwarted by Clark and Anderson respectively.
Substitute Horgan then tried his luck from the edge of the box only for his strike to be deflected just over Clark’s crossbar before Kamberi headed wide from the resultant corner kick.
At the other end Richard Foster’s in-swinging cross from right was met by the run and head of Liam Craig and the former Hibs skipper went close to nodding his side back in front.
Stevenson’s angled drive in the 78th minute fizzed across the face of the St Johnstone goal and just wide as Clark for once was rooted to the spot.
With seven minutes remaining Alston almost stole the points for Wright’s men with a thunderous strike that Ambrose managed to divert over the crossbar at the last moment.
Thereafter, Hibernian pressed hard for a late winner without finding a way through a resolute home defence as the teams settled for a share of the spoils in Perth.
St Johnstone: Clark, Tanser, Alston, Anderson (Gordon 60’), Wright (Wotherspoon 86’), Davidson, Kerr, Foster, Craig, Watt (McMillan 90’), Kennedy. Substitutes not used: Mitchell, McCann, McClean, Scougall.
Hibernian: Laidlaw, Whittaker, Hanlon, Maclaren (Kamberi 63’), Boyle, Stevenson, Hyndman (Horgan 63’), Mallan, Ambrose, Shaw (Swanson 85’), Porteous. Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Gray, Bartley, Slivka.
Referee: William Collum.