Hibs recover to condemn Ross County to bottom spot at Christmas
Teenager Oli Shaw was the hero as Hibernian came from behind to defeat Ross County 2-1 and ensure the Staggies will spend Christmas Day at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The 19-year-old bagged his third senior goal for the club to finally break the resistance of stubborn County and ensure Neil Lennon’s charges head into Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby with a five-point advantage over Hearts.
The table makes altogether more bleak reading for the relegation-threatened visitors, who saw Craig Curran’s opener wiped out by Anthony Stokes’ 100th top-flight goal in Scottish football as they plummeted to 12th spot.
Lennon made two changes from the side battered 4-1 by Aberdeen in their last outing, with Marvin Bartley and Simon Murray dropped to the bench to be replaced by Stokes and Shaw.
County, meanwhile, brought Ross Draper, Billy McKay and Andrew Davies into the side in place of Jamie Lindsay, Jim O’Brien and the suspended Michael Gardyne as Owen Coyle set his stall out to punish the hosts on the counter-attack.
That plan worked to perfection after 15 minutes when Jason Naismith’s raking deep cross found Chris Eagles unmarked at the far post. The former -Manchester United man picked out Curran, who directed a neat close-range finish beyond Ofir Marciano.
However, Hibs hit back immediately through Stokes, who directed a clinical header into the net from 10 yards after he was picked out by a fine clipped delivery by Dylan McGeouch.
The hosts turned the screw as they sought to complete the turnaround prior to half-time. A dazzling, mazy run from Brandon Barker, starting on the edge of his own box, culminated in a powerful low drive which forced a sharp low stop from Scott Fox.
Stokes then latched onto another magnificent cross-field pass by McGeouch but, as he hared through on goal, he could only smash his left-footed effort wildly over the crossbar.
Hibs were in the ascendancy from the outset in the second period but struggled to penetrate a well-drilled County back line, with the capital club restricted to drives from distance by John McGinn and Stokes.
When they did finally carve the visitors open, Martin Boyle fluffed his lines. Stokes freed the winger with an incisive pass but he could only shoot straight into the chest of the onrushing Fox.
However, Hibs’ pressure finally paid off after 75 minutes when Barker produced another superb surge down the left flank before whipping a fine cross towards the near post, where Shaw was on hand to beat Fox with an instinctive shot.