ANTHONY STOKES marked his first start since returning to Hibernian with a double as the capital club booked their place in the quarter-final of the Betfred Cup with a 5-0 win over Ayr United.

The Irish internationalist, now in his third stint at Easter Road, took just 19 minutes to break the deadlock, nodding home a Danny Swanson corner kick from close range. Stokes turned provider when he slipped a fine through-ball for Simon Murray, who converted his ninth goal of the season in cool fashion.

The same pairing linked up after the break to end the game as a contest, with Murray whipping in a superb deep cross for Stokes to bundle into the net at the back-post.

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Late strikes from Efe Ambrose and Deivydas Matulevicius concluded the scoring as Hibs claimed a comprehensive triumph.

Making is first start for Hibs since inspiring Hibs to a 3-2 win over Rangers in the Scottish Cup final in 2016, he deservedly picked up man of the match - and will be desperate to keep his place when Neil Lennon takes his side to Ibrox on Saturday for the first rematch between the clubs since that afternoon at Hampden.

While the hosts dominated, Ayr United boss Ian McCall will be rightly furious with the sloppy nature of Hibs’ opener. Stokes was left unforgivable amount of space to head a Danny Swanson delivery beyond Jordan Hart.

Murray doubled the Hibees’ advantage before the break, latching onto a pass from his strike-partner and continuing his hot-streak with a composed finish. Ayr were rocking as Stokes lashed two efforts inches wide from distance.

Stokes did finally get his second of the evening when he met a superb delivery from the irrepressible Murray and belied a tight angle to poke the ball beyond the scrambling Hart. Ambrose reacted quickest to make it 4-0, nudging an effort over the line after a John McGinn corner had caused havoc in the Honest Men area.

And there was time for Matulevicius to add further gloss to the scoreline, with his shot from just inside the box deflecting beyond Hart for the Lithuanian striker’s maiden goal in Hibs colours.