Hibs’ hopes of a third place finish were dealt a blow by St Johnstone at Easter Road this afternoon.
Head Coach Jack Ross made two changes to the starting XI that beat Motherwell on penalties last weekend with Ofir Marciano returning in place of Matt Macey whilst Drey Wright, who celebrated his 26th birthday this week, replaced the injured Kevin Nisbet.
Photos Ian Jacobs
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson made seven changes to the starting XI that beat Rangers on penalties for the match that could be a dress rehearsal for this year’s Scottish Cup final.
Hibs dominated the early possession without creating any clear-cut chances but it was the visitors that took the lead against the run of play in the 22nd minute when Ryan Porteous’s mishit clearance landed at the feet of Glenn Middleton who fired the ball into the net from 15-yards.
Joe Newell was shown a yellow card for blocking a run from Middleton then moments later Martin Boyle went close with an acrobatic effort from Jackson Irvine’s cross but Elliot Parish did well to save at point blank range.
Just before the break former Hibs’ defender Callum Booth was booked for tripping Paul McGinn but Newell’s free-kick was cleared.
Shortly after the restart Newell found Boyle with a superb through ball but he was crowded out and his eventual shot was blocked.
In the 52nd minute a Newell corner fell to Alex Gogic but his overhead effort flew high over the bar.
Ali McCann was booked for a foul on Newell then Kyle Magennis replaced Wright.
McGinn was the next name in the book for a trip on Michael O’Halloran then Melker Hallberg replaced Alec Gogic as Hibs looked for an equaliser.
Hibs had the ball in the net in the 71st minute when Irvine sent a through ball to Boyle but the offside flag was raised and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
Hallberg then did well to surge forward and tried to find Christian Doidge but he was crowded out.
Doidge then headed a Newell corner over the bar and Hibs continued to press froward and Ross made a late double substitution with Lewis Stevenson and Steven Bradley replacing Doig and Newell.
In the dying minutes Boyle beat two defenders and cut the ball back into the danger area but former Hibs’ player David Wotherspoon produced a superb tackle to deny Hallberg and the visitors held on to secure all three points.
Elsewhere Aberdeen beat Livingston to reduce the gap to three points with two games remaining.
After the final whistle Ross told BBC Scotland: “The goal was decided on a really poor moment from our side. We do create, but you’ll have afternoons where you don’t and that’s when it’s important you keep a clean sheet. We need to get better at that. I’m annoyed because we dipped below the standards we’ve set for the bulk of the season. It’s the reaction that’s always the most important thing. It’s not panic stations.”
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson said: “Hibs are a really good attacking team, so we managed to stifle them and create a couple of chances. It was a game of few opportunities and I’m delighted we manged to nick it. If you’d have said at the start of the season we would be fifth at this stage, I’d have snapped your hand off.”
Hibs Marciano, Hanlon, Porteous, McGinn, Doig, Gogic, Irvine, Newell, Wright, Boyle, Doidge. Subs: Macey, Gray, Magennis, Stevenson, Hallberg, McGregor, Bradley.
St Johnstone: Parish, Kerr, Gordon, Brown, McCart, Booth, Bryson, McCann, Middleton, O’Halloran, Kane. Subs: Willis, Rooney, Davidson, Wotherspoon, Conway, May, Gilmour, Melamed.
Referee Greg Aitken