Christian Doidge scored the only goal of the game as Hibernian defeated Aberdeen to secure third place in this season’s Scottish Premiership.
Aberdeen had to win this evening to have any chance of overtaking Hibs on the final day and although the hosts dominated possession, they were met by a green wall as the visitors defended resolutely throughout.
Doidge’s 14th goal of the campaign ensured Hibs left the granite city victorious for the first time since May 2012, recorded their highest league finish in 16 years and saw the Easter Road men record a club record 11th away win of the season.
Hibs perhaps had the better opportunities with Jackson Irvine hitting the crossbar early in the second half. In the end, one was enough, and Hibs will go into the final game of the season against Celtic this Saturday without the pressure of needing to get a result.
Hibernian made two changes to the side that secured a place in this term’s Scottish Cup final with victory over Dundee United at the weekend. Ryan Porteous and Joe Newell both picked up knocks on Saturday and they were amongst the substitutes this evening as Darren McGregor and Alex Gogic replaced them in the starting XI.
Aberdeen started very brightly and penned their opponents back in the opening period of the match.
They were first to threaten and perhaps should have made more of a Johnny Hayes cross that Callum Hendry could only head straight at Matt Macey, who gathered comfortably.
Stephen Glass’ side had another opportunity soon after when Ryan Hedges corner kick was headed down by Andrew Considine to Lewis Ferguson only for the midfielder to fail to get a clean connection and Macey gathered. Ferguson believed he had been fouled by Doidge however match official, John Beaton, was unmoved to his appeals.
Hibs, who were struggling to get out of their halve as Aberdeen piled on the early pressure, were defending resolutely, and repelling everything being thrown at them by the hosts.
Having weathered the storm Hibs started to create opportunities of their own when Doidge’s header forced Gary Woods into action following a Melker Hallberg freekick before Paul McGinn had an effort from distance deflected wide for a corner kick.
With half-time looming Aberdeen should have scored. Florian Kamberi played a neat one-two with Johnny Hayes before driving into the Hibs box and cutting back to Hedges. The Dons player sliced his shot fortuitously into the feet of Hendry, who could only send his close-range effort sailing high over the crossbar.
Four minutes before the interval the deadlock was broken by Hibernian. McGregor played a long diagonal that was knocked down by the head of Josh Doig, Jackson Irvine flicked it onto Doidge who took a wonderful first touch to take it away from Dylan McGeouch before smashing a sensational half-volley beyond Woods from 20 yards.
Aberdeen had an opportunity to hit back almost immediately when McLennan’s cross from the right was headed goalward by Hedges, however Macey was perfectly positioned to make a comfortable save.
The visitors were desperately unlucky not to double their advantage two minutes after the restart when Martin Boyle’s cross from the right found Irvine peeling away from Connor MacLennan at the back post, the Aussie brought the ball down on his chest before his eventually shot struck the crossbar.
The Easter Road men went close again soon after when McGregor rose highest to meet a Hallberg free kick, only to head off target.
Hibs had defended brilliantly this evening however Jack Ross would not have been happy to see Hedges get a shot on the turn away inside the box when surrounded by four green shirts. Fortunately for Hibs, the Dons’ player could only direct his effort into the side netting.
Hallberg had been impressive in midfield however injury would curtail his evening and he was replaced by Kyle Magennis as Hibs were forced into a reshuffle.
Aberdeen had not created too many opportunities this evening however they had two in quick succession when Hendry fed the unmarked Kamberi on the edge of the box, only for the Swiss to slice his shot wide and then Hendry’s angled shot was pushed around the post by Macey as the Dons went close.
With pressure building Hibs introduced Jamie Murphy and Lewis Stevenson. The change appeared to work wonders as the pair pushed their side forward and Aberdeen back.
Winger Murphy went close to snatching a second goal for his side when he cut inside off the left flank and let fly with a powerful right foot shot that Woods saved at his near post.
With 13 minutes remaining Hibs had a good opportunity to secure the three points when MacLennan failed to clear Doidge’s cross and the ball dropped to Irvine, who could only drag his shot wide of goal from 12 yards and the goal opening up for him.
Aberdeen’s best chance of getting back into the game came on 82 minutes when MacLennan’s whipped cross found substitute Niall McGinn nipping in ahead of McGregor only to head wide of goal from six yards.
That proved to be Aberdeen’s final effort of note as Hibs comfortably saw out the remainder of the match to claim all three points and third place in this term’s Scottish Premiership.
Aberdeen: Woods, MacKenzie, Considine, Hoban, Hayes (Kennedy 53’), McLennan, McGeouch, Ferguson, Hedges (McGinn 80’), Hendry (Hornby 84’), Kamberi. Substitutes not used: Ritchie, Ross, Campbell, Gallagher, Ruth, Ramsay.
Hibernian: Macey, McGinn, Hanlon, McGregor, Doig (Stevenson 65’), Gogic, Hallberg (Magennis 53’), Irvine, Boyle, Doidge, Nisbet (Murphy 65’). Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Porteous, Gray, Wright, Newell.
Referee: John Beaton.
Words: Rick Payne