HIBS went four points clear at the top of the Championship last night with a comprehensive victory over their nearest, and some would say only, rivals for the title.
Easter Road manager Neil Lennon’s insistence on strengthening his squad even while top of the division was proven utterly correct when midweek signing Chris Humphrey proved the catalyst who unlocked the United defence to set up a double for Jason Cummings that all but settled the outcome before half-time.
It has to be said that at times the normally well-organised United defence had more holes than an argument for Brexit. Yet take nothing away from Lennon’s men – they were the better side in every department, particularly in midfield where Marvin Bartley was immense throughout.
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Hibs capitalised on their bright start with a goal after barely six minutes of play. Humphrey had already shown that he could be dangerous, and got himself into a good position when Nick van der Velden and Willo Flood’s headed clearances from a Commons corner only made it to the edge of the box, from where Humphrey sclaffed the ball to Cummings standing 12 yards out who made no mistake with a clinical low shot.
United continued to live dangerously, a 14th minute clearance skewed into the path of Cummings but William Edjenguele got back to clear, and then Commons let fly from distance and saw the ball blocked.
The visitors were reduced to shooting from distance, Tony Andreu firing high and wide, while van der Velden should have done better with his effort that also went wide.
At the other end Commons shot over from the edge of the box but United began to threaten and Hibs captain David Gray had to look lively to head a dangerous cross to safety.
Hibs always looked more dangerous in attack, however, and a superb moment of skill from Humphrey gained them a deserved second goal.
The former Motherwell man took down a long ball forward and in one motion knocked it past Paul Dixon, then stroked the ball into the path of the onrushing Cummings who simply could not miss from close range.
United’s frustration showed when Charlie Telfer swung a wild boot at Martin Boyle and was booked. Stuart Murdoch followed him into the book later in the half for an equally wild swipe at Bartley, who himself was booked in the second half for pulling down Flood.
With 15 minutes left and Hibs seemingly cruising, Ross Laidlaw had to pull of a wonderful instinctive save from a powerful Tope Obadeyi header.
The real reason why Hibs must now be favourites for the Championship was shown in 79 minutes when Commons went off to be replaced by Scotland internationalist and Scottish Cup winner John McGinn – no other team in the league has that sort of strength in depth.
He promptly proved the point by pouncing on United’s failure to close him down at a corner, McGinn advancing into the box and and poking the ball past Cammie Bell.
The scoreline was a fair reflection of Hibs’superiority, and the rest of the league are playing catch-up.