Ross County encountered a chastening afternoon in the capital as they went down 3-0 to Hibernian at Easter Road.
After the initial blow was fortuitously landed by Martin Boyle’s deflected strike on 22 minutes, the Staggies quickly found a slick and confident Hibs side far too hot to handle as headers from Kyle Magennis and Christian Doidge had them trailing by three goals within 11 minutes.
County’s opening day 0-0 draw with St Johnstone had offered some encouraging defensive signs, with the Staggies having struggled to keep goals out in their previous two Premiership campaigns.
The first half showing in Edinburgh suggests Mackay still has work to do in addressing the issue however, given Hibs could very plausibly have done greater damage to the Dingwall men.
Although Malky Mackay had drafted in five new additions since County last played, his only change to the starting line-up saw a familiar face restored in Harry Paton who replaced Dominic Samuel. The addition of his brother Ben Paton, David Cancola, Jack Burroughs, Harry Clarke and Ashley Maynard-Brewer gave the Staggies boss welcome strength in depth on the bench.
Hibs were welcoming supporters back to a home league match for the first time this term, but it was County who threatened to rain on the parade on eight minutes when Jordan White angled a header over after meeting a Connor Randall delivery.
It proved to be White’s only real glimpse of goal however, on a frustrating afternoon for County’s attacking unit.
Randall had to show his defensive strengths at the other end moments later, making a crucial clearance after Martin Boyle had headed across goal into a dangerous area where Christian Doidge was lurking.
Just as the Staggies were beginning to settle some decent passing rhythms, Hibs took the lead with a goal shrouded in good fortune on 22 minutes. Boyle lined up a strike from the edge of the box, which spun off Jordan Tillson before looping over the reach of Ross Laidlaw and high into the net.
Hibs ruthlessly doubled the advantage just four minutes later, with Josh Doig making an excellent break down the left before crossing for Magennis to steer a free header beyond Laidlaw.
It threatened to get even worse for the Staggies within moments, with Jamie Murphy spinning to carve out a shot at goal but seeing his effort blocked behind by Randall.
County’s misery was only temporarily spared however, with Doidge getting on the end of a Paul McGinn delivery to guide a header past the dive of the helpless Laidlaw on 33 minutes, giving the Dingwall men a mountain to climb.
The Staggies knew a reply before half-time would go some way towards slowing the damage, with Blair Spittal seeing an effort blocked by Paul Hanlon, while Iacovitti’s delivery teed up Ross Callachan for an attempt on the first-time volley which whistled inches over.
Hibs could yet have added a fourth before the break though, with Doidge slipping an effort wide after being played in by Magennis.
The half-time break gave County the opportunity to regroup, with new signings Clarke and Burroughs introduced for their debuts in place of Harry Paton and Coll Donaldson.
Burroughs and Clarke both took aim with a long-range efforts which flew over, while at the other end Regan Charles-Cook did well to get his body in the way of another Doidge attempt.
Cancola was the third player to be given his first taste of Premiership action, with the Austrian midfielder brought on for Callachan with 15 minutes remaining.
Although County strung together some decent play in the latter stages, with Charles-Cook and Burroughs particularly lively, the task was well beyond them as the first half damage proved too much to reverse.
The Staggies will now look to the make the most of a break from action before their next match, which comes at home to champions Rangers a week on Saturday.
HIBERNIAN (4-3-3) – Macey 6; McGinn 6, Porteous 6, Hanlon 6 (McGregor 46), Doig 8; Doyle-Hayes 7, Newell 7, Magennis 8; Boyle 7 (MacKay 70), Doidge 7, Murphy 7 (Allan 79). Subs not used – Dabrowski, Stevenson, Gogic, Campbell.
ROSS COUNTY (5-4-1) – Laidlaw 6; Randall 6, Donaldson 5 (Clarke 46), Watson 5, Iacovitti 5, Charles-Cook 6; Spittal 6, Tillson 5, Callachan 5 (Cancola 76), H Paton 5 (Burroughs 46); White 5. Subs not used – Maynard-Brewer, Shaw, Samuel, B Paton.
Referee – Grant Irvine 6
Man of the match: Josh Doig