Shinnie (29), Holt (41)
Cummings (55), Graham (74)
Morton’s unbeaten start to the season came to a shuddering halt away at Hibernian today as the Edinburgh outfit ran out comfortable 4-0 victors in the capital.
The Greenock men had not lost in eight competitive fixtures this term despite facing the likes of Premiership clubs Kilmarnock and Hamilton Accies in the Betfred Cup and St Mirren and Falkirk on Championship duty.
But Neil Lennon’s Hibs proved a step up in quality and eased to victory to maintain their own impressive start to the campaign, which sees them sit atop the table having won all of their four opening fixtures.
Ton came into the match off the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw with Dumbarton, and manager Jim Duffy made two changes to the team that took a share of the spoils against the Sons.
Out went Scott Tiffoney and the injured Ricki Lamie to be replaced by Aidan Nesbitt and the returning Mark Russell, who has been struggling with a viral complaint.
Ton boss Duffy recognised Hibs’ embarrassment of riches in the striking department prior to the game, and four of those forwards would put his side to the sword by netting with headers over the course of the 90 minutes.
With just six minutes played, Celtic loan midfielder Jamie Lindsay was required to clear former Norwich City hitman Grant Holt’s hooked effort off the line.
In-demand Jason Cummings then skewed high over the bar from a promising position after right-back David Gray had picked him out with a cut-back.
Not only had Hibs recently rejected a significant bid of over £1million for Cummings but they were able to add to their arsenal in the shape of attacking midfielder Andrew Shinnie on loan from Birmingham City.
And it was Scotland cap Shinnie who would fire his new club into the lead on 29 minutes by stealing in on the blind side of the Ton back four and meeting Fraser Fyvie’s hanging cross with a header that flew past Derek Gaston.
Hibs had the bull by the horns and doubled their advantage on 41 minutes through Holt, who beat Gaston to John McGinn’s inswinging cross from the left and connected with a thumping header that crashed into the goal off the bar.
The Ton custodian appealed for a foul at the time and Duffy later explained that the challenge had left him with a swollen thigh that eventually forced him to come off on 72 minutes to be replaced by Andy McNeil.
It promised to be a long second half when Cummings added a third goal 10 minutes after the break, and again the source was a header from inside the six-yard box.
This time Shinnie was the provider. Bursting onto a pass down the inside-right channel, he fired over a centre before Ross Forbes could make the block and Cummings darted across the goalmouth and flashed a header past Gaston to take his red-hot scoring run to six goals in five appearances so far this season.
Just five members of the Ton team that recorded a shock 3-0 win at the same venue back in February started on this return visit, but the sting of that loss seemed to be fresh in the hosts’ memory.
They appeared intent on avenging the events of that evening from early on and really went for the jugular in the final half hour by adding fresh legs to their attack in the shape of James Keatings, Martin Boyle and Brian Graham
The sight of former Cappielow striker Graham, a Ton youth graduate, entering the field of play as a substitute just after the hour would have been met with an air of resignation by the 350 travelling fans amongst the impressive crowd of 14,508.
He was sure to score and did so in the 74th minute with a superbly-taken glancing header that he expertly steered inside McNeil’s left-hand post after stealing in ahead of Thomas O’Ware to get on the end of Cummings’ teasing delivery from the left.
Stand-in shot-stopper McNeil kept the score down by beating back a firm Boyle strike from deep inside the box after the Ton were cleaved wide open two minutes from time.
Morton had made little attacking headway themselves over the piece but carved out a rare goal-scoring opportunity in stoppage-time when a Ross Forbes corner dropped at the feet of Nesbitt.
The winger took a touch and flashed a snapshot narrowly over the crossbar, ensuring the scoreline would finish 4-0 to a Hibs side that already looks on course to claim the Championship crown.
The Ton now turn their mind from league duty to the Irn-Bru Cup and attempting to bounce back from today’s heavy defeat when they travel to Hampden to face Queen’s Park in seven days’ time.
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware 17. Russell
10. Lindsay 8. Forbes 12. Tidser 11. Nesbitt
Subs used: Oyenuga (for Quitongo, 65), McNeil (for Gaston, 72), and McAleer (for Oliver, 82).
Subs not used: Scullion, McDonagh, Tennent, Tiffoney
Booked: Kilday (45+1).
Hibernian (41212): Marciano; Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson; Bartley (Keatings, 69); Fyvie, McGinn; Shinnie; Cummings (Boyle, 78) Holt (Graham, 65).
Subs not used: Forster, Harris, Crane, Laidlaw (gk).
Booked: McGregor (19).
Referee: Alan Muir
Attendance: 14,508 (350 away fans)
Images: David Bell