High-flying Hibs ease past Well

Hibernian remain two points off the top of the Scottish Premier League after an impressive performance in the 2-0 home win over Motherwell.

Last Updated: 05/12/09 at 18:14 Post Comment

Stokes (c): On target against Motherwell

Stokes (c): On target against Motherwell

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The home side began to take control midway through the first half and Anthony Stokes ignored offside appeals to slot home on the counter-attack four minutes before the break.

Another Stokes shot found the net via a deflection off a Motherwell player in the 55th minute and Hibs put on a stylish display without further reward.

Hibs are now unbeaten in nine games and can take even more confidence from a convincing display against a side whose only other SPL defeat this season came against John Hughes' men.

Hibernian shrugged off an early blow when Graham Stack failed a fitness test on his back injury, with Yves Ma-Kalambay coming in.

Both teams lined up in otherwise unchanged 4-4-2 formations and produced some neat passing in the opening quarter without an end result.

Hibs striker Derek Riordan shot straight at John Ruddy from 20 yards and Ma-Kalambay beat away several near-post corners from Tom Hateley.

The hosts had a decent chance midway through the half when a cross from right-back David Wotherspoon picked out Stokes in space 14 yards out, but the striker mis-hit his first-time volley.

Hibs stepped up a gear and Nish headed over Riordan's corner amid a crowded penalty box before Ruddy acrobatically tipped over John Rankin's 25-yard curler following a positive run by Ian Murray.

The Motherwell goalkeeper soon backtracked to push over Riordan's attempted chip from similar range, before Chris Hogg blocked brilliantly from Jutkiewicz after the on-loan Everton striker had jinked away from Sol Bamba in the box.

Motherwell right-winger Jamie Murphy was cutting inside well but Hogg and Bamba were always on hand to snuff out the danger and Hibs continued to improve.

Zemmama's pass to Riordan took out Stevie Hammell but the left-back recovered to divert the Scotland striker's shot wide and Nish headed over the resulting corner from a tight angle.

Hibs took the lead after Ma-Kalambay set up a counter-attack. Riordan lifted the ball over the top for Stokes to run on to and the former Sunderland striker held off Reynolds and shot low past Ruddy from 12 yards.

Reynolds appealed strongly for offside but his centre-back partner Steven Saunders had played Stokes on.

Ma-Kalambay then ensured Hibs led at half-time with a brilliant one-handed save to push over Saunders' powerful header from a Forbes free-kick.

Jim Gannon made a double switch at half-time with Keith Lasley and Jim O'Brien coming on for Sutton and Forbes, with Murphy now playing through the centre.

O'Brien immediately looked lively but Hibs moved further ahead following patient build-up play when Ruddy was wrong-footed by a Stokes shot which appeared to deflect off a Motherwell player and spin into the net.

Hibernian's creative players continued to pose problems running at the visitors, with Riordan shooting straight at Ruddy before Merouane Zemmama placed the ball wide after impressive footwork inside the box.

Murphy was unfortunate to be booked for diving by Iain Brines when he was brought down by a sliding challenge from Bamba inside the box.

But Hibs remained in control and Stokes went close twice within the space of two minutes. Ruddy pushed a powerful shot past his near post after a poor pass by Reynolds allowed Hibs to break down the right, and the striker then hit the bar with a glancing header from Riordan's corner.

Riordan limped off with 10 minutes left but the hosts continued to dominate possession, although Motherwell created their best chance in the final minute, only for Jutkiewicz to mis-hit Giles Coke's cutback.

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