It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for Hibernian as Liam Craig’s first-half strike secured victory for St Johnstone.
Former Hibs skipper Craig scored with St Johnstone’s only shot on target during the 90 minutes whilst the hosts had to withstand relentless second-half pressure.
Hibernian penned the Perth man back for almost the entire 45 minutes and carved out several opportunities, however they were unable to find a breakthrough and St Johnstone claimed an unlikely win.
Hibs went into the match looking to bounce back following last weekend’s defeat by Motherwell. Head Coach Jack Ross made four changes to his side with Ryan Porteous, Josh Doig, Alex Gogic and Kevin Nisbet all restored to the starting line-up.
There was little in the way of early opportunities during the opening quarter-of-an-hour with the only incident of note coming in the eighth minute when Martin Boyle went down inside the Saints box under the challenge of two home defenders. However, the match officials were unmoved and play continued.
The deadlock was broken eight minutes later when Callum Booth’s cross from the left was not properly dealt with by Hibs and when Josh Doig’s clearance dropped to Craig on the edge of the box he calmly took a touch before curling a sublime finish beyond Ofir Marciano.
Hibernian’s best period of play during the first half came in the closing moments as Doig got down the left flank and his low driven cross was sliced over his crossbar by Jamie McCart.
Just 60 seconds later Chris Cadden, Boyle and Jackson Irvine combined to carve St Johnstone open for the first time and when the ball came to Joe Newell on the edge of the box, he tried to whip a finish into the bottom right corner of goal, only to drag his shot wide.
The second half would be a story of relentless Hibernian pressure and St Johnstone defending resolutely.
The first opportunity came two minutes after the restart when Irvine headed wide from a Boyle corner kick. Boyle was again the provider moments later when he found Paul Hanlon with a cross. However, like Irvine moments earlier, his header finished off target.
Hibs introduced Christian Doidge to add a physical presence up top and he almost made an immediate impact. Gogic fed the ball into the feet of Nisbet and from his lay-off Doidge’s net-bound effort was tipped over the crossbar by Zander Clark.
Full-back Doig was enjoying the better of his personal contest with O’Halloran in the second period and he was twice able to get forward and have efforts at goal. The first, was a rising effort after Liam Gordon deflected Gogic’s pass into his path then, three minutes later, he peeled off the left flank before evading David Wotherspoon and Ali McCann’s challenges and dragging a shot just wide.
With the clock ticking down towards full-time Hibs continued to put St Johnstone under heavy pressure with Hanlon having a shot blocked in the home box on 85 minutes.
Hibs carved out two opportunities during the four minutes of time added on with Nisbet shooting into the arms of Clark from a Doidge flick-on before Paul McGinn had an effort blocked from point-blank range in the final seconds.
Despite their second half dominance and almost relentless pressure Hibs were unable to break through the stubborn resolve of the home side, who held on to claim the victory.
Report: Richard Payne.