FOOTBALL is affectionately known as the beautiful game for the manner in which its fluid passing, cohesive play and moments of sheer excitement can cause grown men to go weak at the knees.
However, like most things, there is always an exception to the rule. And this was it.
For the most part this was a slog of a game, played out on a pitch which looked like a herd of elephants had stampeded across it, and then back again. The commitment of Kilmarnock and Hibernian to try and play slick football on the Rugby Park surface was a credit to both teams - Sam Stanton and Danny Handling particularly persevered in the face of adversity for the visitors - yet, more often than not, it only stirred groans from the support in the stands, mostly in the home end, who fidgeted in their seats throughout.
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Ironically, for all the mis-timed passes, stumbles, heavy touches and errant runs, this game was lit up by two flashes of skill which culminated in both goals. First, a tremendous through ball from Kris Boyd set up Rory McKenzie's opener, before a pinpoint cross from Easter Road wonderkid Stanton found Danny Haynes to level.
"A point was probably an even result," said Allan Johnston, the Kilmarnock manager, whose side remain eighth in the SPFL Premiership. "We weren't far away, but it's disappointing. The pitch didn't help us being so heavy, it made it really difficult."
Kilmarnock made one change from the team which leaked three goals last weekend to Dundee United as Jackson Irvine, whose slip at Tannadice cost his team a goal, made way for Mark O'Hara at right-back, while Hibs were unchanged from the team that saw off Ross County 2-1. Given the conditions underfoot, it was perhaps obvious why Irvine was relegated to the bench. Either that or he forgot to bring his wellies.
It was Kilmarnock that took the lead after only 19 minutes. Alexei Eremenko shifted the ball to Boyd in his own half, with the Scotland international playing a sublime through ball down the middle for McKenzie, who raced into the box to provide an angle to fire low across Ben Williams. Boyd was later unlucky not to score himself, firstly after a nudge in the back from Michael Nelson in the box went unpunished before a heavy touch from Michael Gardyne saw a one-on-one chance bobble away.
Kilmarnock's lead only lasted until 10 minutes into the second half. Stanton, who lit up Hibs' win over County last week with a deft free-kick, showed how accurate his delivery could be again, this time bending a cross into the box for Haynes, with the on-loan Notts County forward somehow contorting his body to divert his header into the net for his first Hibs goal.
On the balance of play, it was no more than the Easter Road club deserved, who on a better pitch could have nicked the three points to take them above sixth-placed St Johnstone rather than level with them. Stanton scuffed the bar with a fine free-kick, Haynes went close only for Manuel Pascali to block in time, while Jordan Forster eventually dug the ball out of from underneath his feet in a late frenzy only for it to be swiped away.
"It's two points dropped," said Terry Butcher, the Hibs manager. "It's a difficult pitch to play on, it's our first away game in a while and I thought we did pretty well."