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Hibernian 1 Partick Thistle 1: Late goal maintains Butcher unbeaten run

HIBERNIAN supporters did not sing their club anthem Sunshine on Leith at full-time yesterday.

They were content enough just to have seen a slim shaft of light inside Easter Road after James Collins prodded in a late equaliser against Partick Thistle, a goal which maintained a sense of progress under new manager Terry Butcher. He had arrived at a side in the grip of a four-match losing streak, but has since overseen three games without defeat.

It also gave the Englishman much to talk about afterwards, although the less said about the first half the better. It seemed apposite that the most notable incident also seemed the most innocuous - Steven Lawless sustaining a rather meek nudge from Jordan Forster in the penalty area, only for its seemingly minor impact to become more severe when the Thistle midfielder was stretchered off.

Lawless was at the centre of one the game's few threatening moments in the early stages, pushing the ball into the hands of Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams. The home side were given a more rigorous shake four minutes after the break when Kris Doolan took possession just inside the Hibs half and scampered towards goal before lifting a shot over Williams.Doolan has now scored six goals this season and his personal total also accounts for nearly half of Thistle's overall league tally of 13. The side lack goals, then, even if they have still been able to nourish one prevailing ambition - survival in the SPFL. The draw yesterday was enough to keep Thistle in ninth place. They are still within reach of both Ross County and Kilmarnock, of course, yet those clubs are still being kept at arms length.

"I think we more than matched Hibs all over the pitch," said Thistle manager Alan Archibald.

Such a sense of optimism seems to be lacking around Easter Road. While the stadium housed 10,431 supporters yesterday, it does not feel homely to Hibs; the club having won just once in Leith in the league this season. Collins' belated goal was akin to switching the heating on while also leaving the doors open.

Butcher has only been in charge for three matches so it would be unkind to disturb his nascent reign with those dates, but the Hibs manager will likely have the January transfer window clearly marked in his diary. He will hope for some leeway to add to a squad which has plenty of room for a player of creativity, one capable of linking Hibs' forwards with the battery of diligent midfielders.

Collins' goal was a product of fortune since defender Michael Nelson had been brought off the bench to provide a target in the penalty area late on - the substitute was conspicuous as the ball broke to the feet of Collins after a lofted free-kick into the Thistle box - with Hibs' earlier finishing similarly unrefined. Collins had one volley flicked past a post by Scott Fox and also cushioned a header into the Thistle goalkeeper's hands, while a stabbed shot from Ryan McGivern was later cleared away by Isaac Osbourne.

"I think there was a kitchen sink in the penalty area at one stage - we were throwing everything forward," said Butcher. "I thought I was going to get thrown up top for a minute there. There are things we still need to work on, yes, like style of play, but we kept on going and that's a great positive."

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