37’ 0-1Danny Buijs leathers a shot from the corner of the penalty box, Graham Stack spills it and Manu Pascali, loitering in the aftermath of a corner kick, pops it over the Hibs goalkeeper.
49’ 1-1Leigh Griffiths, a half-time substitute, makes an immediate difference. Garry O’Connor releases Ivan Sproule, his low cross is handled dreadfully by Anssi Jaakkola, the Kilmarnock goalkeeper, at the near post and Griffiths converts from a tight angle to salvage a point.
DEAN SHIELS played at Easter Road for the first time since he scored two goals for Hibernian in this fixture in December 2008. Kilmarnock won that day and they should have won this one, too.
Shiels last lined up in a Hibs team that was anchored by Rob Jones and included the likes of Steven Fletcher and Derek Riordan. His assessment that his former team “need better players” if they are to get out of the funk they are mired in has foundation.
Hibs’ supporters booed their team off the pitch at half-time after 45 minutes in which Kilmarnock’s possession game had made them look silly and gradually increased levels of frustration inside the stadium. With eight minutes left in the half, David Wotherspoon shanked a free-kick wildly off target and the place erupted in jeers. Hopefully the young midfielder understood it wasn’t all his fault.
“Looking from the outside, they [Hibs] haven’t had good enough players and it hasn’t worked for the managers they have brought in,” said Shiels.
“Hibs have great fans and I know that when the team is going well and the fans are right behind you there’s nothing better. They are some of the best fans in Scotland when their team is winning. It’s up to the team to give them what they deserve.
“The stadium looks fantastic and I was at Hibs when the training ground was built. They should be third or fourth every year. That was the expectancy when I was there but they are not meeting those expectations at the minute.”
Shiels also noted the change in the styles between his present and former clubs almost three years after he last played in Leith. Then, if you expected one of them to dominate possession, it would have been the home side.
“Under the managers that have come in, Hibs don’t try to play from the back,” said Shiels. “And when they have done they’ve looked like giving away goals. That’s an individual thing to a manager but [passing from the back] is the style of play we had when I was at Hibs.
“I don’t want to judge them but they have changed their style. One of the reasons I came to Kilmarnock was I knew the way they played and I’m really enjoying it. “
A need to recover this footballing identity – during Tony Mowbray’s reign, Hibs had a huge banner outside the stadium promising exactly the kind of football Kilmarnock produced at Easter Road – may influence the appointment of the next manager of Hibernian, and may count against Billy Brown, assistant to the dour Colin Calderwood in Leith and Jim Jefferies, a winning if often pragmatic coach across the city, as well as in Kilmarnock.
Richie Towell, who came on in a half-time reshuffle that transformed the home side’s performance in this match and bolstered Brown’s case for getting the job, believes the continuity provided by the caretaker makes him a viable option.
“Billy has been here since almost the start of the season so nothing really changed today as we tried to play in the same way,” said Towell. “The way it is just now we do have stability.
“The way he is trying to make us play is rubbing off on all of us. The second-half performance showed he wants a high work ethic and that’s what happened.
“If Billy got the job it would give us the stability we need. What he has done in the last two weeks has been really good and everyone has been very positive. I think we all need to continue working hard for each other and for Billy. The way he tries to get us to play football and the way he goes about his work is really good and I could see him here on a permanent basis.”