Kevin Nisbet’s hat-trick gave Hibernian a much-needed Scottish Premiership win at Fir Park, as Motherwell’s miserable form continued.
Nisbet scored scored neatly before the break and added another two after it as Lee Johnson’s side reduced the heat on the back of a dreadful run of nine defeats in 11 league games.
Stuart McKinstry had made it 2-1 and Ross Tierney ensured a nervy four minutes of stoppage time for Hibs, but Motherwell were unable to stop themselves succumbing to another loss.
It’s now just two wins in 16 Premiership games for Steven Hammell’s side and one win in nine home matches, but Motherwell stay 10th, three points from the foot of the table.
Hibs move up to seventh after earning a vital victory following last week’s chastening 3-0 derby defeat by Hearts and a dreadful league run.
Johnson’s vocal criticism of his squad in the wake of that Tynecastle loss provoked a positive reaction from his players, who started intently and got the breakthrough.
Aiden McGeady – who was excellent on his first start of the season – picked out an unmarked Nisbet in the box, and the striker took one touch with his right foot, and drilled the ball into the bottom corner with his left.
The Scotland international added his second from two yards out after the break when Elie Youan latched on to Ryan Porteous’ long free kick and squared the ball across goal.
But while Hibs were strong in spells, they were never convincing throughout.
Motherwell got back into the game when a simple long ball was missed by Hibs’ makeshift right-back Josh Campbell, allowing half-time substitute McKinstry to stroke the ball past David Marshall.
At that point the home side looked likely to find an equalizer as Hibs grew nervous, and defender Sondre Solholm Johansen cracked the bar with a header, as his centre-back partner Ricki Lamie had done in the first half.
But a minute after Johnson made some changes and put Porteous into midfield, the centre-back won the ball and put Campbell free down the right, and Nisbet brilliantly tucked away his cross to claim his hat-trick and what looked likely to be a comfortable win for Hibs.
However, substitute Tierney swept home Motherwell’s second in the 90th minute, which caused panic in the Hibs’ ranks, and Porteous had to make a last-ditch intervention to stop Kevin van Veen tapping in an equalizer at the death.
Player of the match – Kevin Nisbet
Hibs’ attack enriched by returning players – analysis
Johnson spoke about how much he was looking forward to seeing Nisbet, McGeady, and Kyle Magennis starting together, having all been injured for most of the season. It made such a difference to their attack.
Nisbet grabbed his second Hibs’ hat-trick on just his fifth game back after nine months out with an ACL injury, and his finishing ability could make all the difference for Hibs.
McGeady was also fantastic, setting up the first goal and generally showing he still has great technical ability even if, at 36, his pace is not what it was.
While there were attacking positives, Hibs still showed their flaky side. Defensively and in midfield they still look too flimsy, and on another day Motherwell could well have claimed at last a point.
But instead, it was groundhog day for them. They failed to take their chances despite plenty of good play, and their penalty box defending was poor.
Nisbet was totally unmarked and left in acres of space for his first goal, managed to get in front of his marker easily for his third, and Matt Penney completely switched off from a long free kick for the second.
Something has to change, which means January recruits are urgently needed. The negative momentum at Fir Park could prove hard to stop unless they turns things round quickly. The boos at full time said it all.
Motherwell face what must now be a relegation scrap with bottom side Ross County at Fir Park next Saturday, while Hibs host Dundee United at the same time (15:00 GMT).
- 16McGinnSubstituted forjohnstonat 82′minutes
- 15JohansenBooked at 85mins
- 8SlatteryBooked at 57minsSubstituted forTierneyat 82′minutes
- 29shieldsSubstituted forMcKinstryat 45′minutes
- 9van Veen
- 12CaddenSubstituted forHendersonat 31′minutes
- 7MagennisSubstituted forCabrajaat 73′minutes
- 11NewellBooked at 90mins
- 23YouanSubstituted forHanlonat 73′minutes
- 15NisbetSubstituted forMelkersenat 87′minutes
- 46McGeadySubstituted forKennehat 87′minutes
- 10Vieira Tavares
- David Munro
Match ends, Motherwell 2, Hibernian 3.
Second Half Ends, Motherwell 2, Hibernian 3.
Goal! Motherwell 2, Hibernian 3. Ross Tierney (Motherwell) right footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner.
Joe Newell (Hibernian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Sondre Johansen (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Newell (Hibernian).
Foul by Ricki Lamie (Motherwell).
Elias Melkersen (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Hibernian. Elias Melkersen replaces Kevin Nisbet.
Substitution, Hibernian. Nohan Kenneh replaces Aiden McGeady.
Attempt missed. Ryan Porteous (Hibernian) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right from a direct free kick.
Sondre Johansen (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Sondre Johansen (Motherwell).
Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Dean Cornelius (Motherwell).
Josh Campbell (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Motherwell. Ross Tierney replaces Callum Slattery.
Substitution, Motherwell. Max Johnston replaces Paul McGinn.
Delay in match because of an injury Kevin van Veen (Motherwell).