James Scott’s hat-trick helps Hibs finish strong as St Johnstone prioritize play-off survival

James Scott celebrates as he makes it 3-0 at Hibs against St Johnstone at Easter Road. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

This time last year both sides were preparing for a Scottish Cup final following a season that saw the Easter Road side claim third place for the first time in 16 years, while the Saints had secured fifth place, Europe, and go on to complete a historic cup double at Hampden.

Fast forward 12 months and the decline at both clubs has been brutal. For Hibs, the win secured eighth place in the Premiership – a small crumb of comfort given it was still possible for the Edinburgh side to finish as low as 10th after a campaign that saw them go without two managers and ending with David Gray as goalkeeper. load.

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The Saints’ fate is far worse, with their top-flight survival hinged on beating promotion-chasing Inverness in a pressure-cooker play-off, with the first leg at Caledonian Stadium on Friday before the return to McDiarmid Park next Sunday.

This was evident when manager Callum Davidson made six changes to his starting line-up for Leith’s dead rubber clash with key men such as Zander Clark, Liam Gordon, Murray Davidson and Callum Hendry all rested, and despite leaving quick from the visitors, these changes ultimately took their toll as the game drifted away from the Perth side.

For Hibs, the 4-0 win was perhaps their way of apologizing to the home fans for a season to forget, but while most at the club will be happy to draw a line under it as they are looking to reset and rebuild under a new manager, with a fixture scheduled for this week, for one player the summer break comes at a bad time.

Scott has been through a tough time since joining the club on a season-long loan from Hull City in August, but has regained his form – and his goalscoring touch – in recent weeks, which has resulted in that he recovers the match ball for this end-of-season meeting. .

His first goal, which came three minutes into the second half after Paul McGinn had brought home the opener just before the break, was the fluke the 21-year-old could have made early on. of his Hibs career, the ball deflecting into the net via his thigh as he launched his body towards a Harry Clarke cross.

If it was a fluke, there was nothing lucky about his next arrival as a fine first-time strike from Joe Newell’s reduction on the hour mark put the home side at three, before his crowning moment came two minutes from time.

The applause had just died down after his Man of the Match announcement when Josh Doig fired a deep cross to the back post where Scott cushioned a superb header across the goal and inside the post.

It ensured a warm atmosphere inside Easter Road – something of a rarity this season – as the Hibs players said goodbye, one or two perhaps for the last time, with a full lap time around the field.

The saints, however, will not dwell on this one.

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