Hibernian defeated Kilmarnock 2-0 this afternoon at Easter Road to progress through to the last eight of the Premier Sports Cup.
Second half goals from Kyle Magennis and Kevin Nisbet were enough to shake off the Ayrshire men.
We took our time to find our form in this contest as our European efforts appeared to be taking their toll, however a strong second half performance saw us deservedly into the quarter final.
Jack Ross kept faith with the same starting XI that lost on Thursday evening in Croatia. Paul Hanlon and Christian Doidge missed out through injury.
It was sunshine on Leith this afternoon as Paul McGinn led out the side to face Tommy Wright’s, Kilmarnock.
We made a positive start with Jamie Murphy continuing his recent run of fine form and skipping past two challenges before his low cross towards the back post almost found Martin Boyle sliding in.
Yet, we probably should have been behind soon after when Euan Murray’s long clearance caught out Darren McGregor and Ryan Porteous, allowing Scott Robinson in on Matt Macey. The former Hearts striker delayed his shot too long allowing Macey to stand tall and make the crucial save.
We did not appear our usual fluid best, perhaps because of Thursday’s exertions or Kilmarnock’s suffocating tactics, however opportunities were few and far between.
On 26 minutes Nisbet’s tenacity won possession deep in the Killie halve and his whipped delivery was just beyond Magennis.
Four minutes later we had our first shot on target however Nisbet’s shot on the turn was comfortably held by Sam Walker.
The visitors were defending deep and in numbers. We were finding very little space to play through with our front players at times looking isolated.
Killie’s tactics almost paid off spectacularly on 36 minutes when a rare foray forward saw Rory McKenzie have an effort blocked by McGregor and from the rebound Liam Polworth smashed a vicious effort off the underside of the crossbar that bounced on the line before being cleared.
It had been a quiet afternoon so far for Kilmarnock goalkeeper Walker and on 38 minutes he was called into action to push away a low, curling effort from Nisbet.
The Scotland striker had another chance 60 seconds later with a glancing header from Murphy’s cross that was just wide of goal.
The visitors had the final chance of the half with Polworth’s shot was blocked at the expense of a corner kick.
A frustrating first period ended with us having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but, few opportunities, with Kilmarnock going closest to scoring.
Whatever Ross said in the dressing room at half-time appeared to work wonders as we appeared reenergised for the second 45.
Nisbet was picked out by a wonderful Josh Doig cross in the opening moments but was unable to guide his header on target.
Seconds later Boyle flashed wonderful delivery across the face of the six-yard box, with no one in green gambling on a tap-in.
We made our early dominance count by getting the breakthrough on 50 minutes. Nisbet pounced on a defensive mistake and although he was through on Walker, he unselfishly slipped the ball to Magennis to score his fourth goal of the season.
The visitors were soon on the attack with Chris Burke and Jason Naismith combing to set up Polworth - the Killie man denied by a good save from Macey.
The tie opened-up thereafter as Kilmarnock were forced to come out. Blair Alston was wide with a free kick before a Magennis shot was off target at the other end.
With 20 minutes remaining Walker kept his side in the tie with a wonderful save to deny Nisbet. Jake Doyle-Hayes set off on a lung-bursting run from deep inside our half, the ball was then worked to Nisbet who curled a wonderful shot towards the far, bottom corner of the goal only for Walker at full stretch to deny him.
It was only a matter of time before we notched a second goal and it duly arrived on 72 minutes when Joe Newell’s cross found Nisbet’s run to beat the offside trap and the striker glanced the ball beyond the helpless Walker.
With six minutes remaining Boyle almost grabbed our third goal with an angled drive that beat Walker but finished just wide of the far post.
Hibernian: Macey, Doig (Stevenson 56’), Porteous, McGinn, Magennis, Boyle (Wright 85’), Newell, Nisbet (Mckay 87’), Murphy (Allan 67’), Doyle-Hayes, McGregor. Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Gogic, Gullan, Campbell. Brydon.
Kilmarnock: Walker, Haunstrup, Murray, Stokes (McGinn 56’), McKenzie (Armstrong 74’), Alston (Lyons 79’), Robinson (Cameron 74’), Polworth, Naismith, McGowan, Burke. Substitutes not used: Hemming, Sanders, Waters, Warnock, McArthur.
Referee: Bobby Madden.