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Hibernian 1 Partick Thistle 1: Stanton heads off disaster as seventh straight loss looms

AT long last, some respite of sorts for Hibernian.

Sam Stanton heads home a late equaliser for HibsPhotograph: SNS
Sam Stanton heads home a late equaliser for HibsPhotograph: SNS

The point won't be enough to completely allay their relegation worries but its significance was not lost on the home crowd at Easter Road at full-time as they cheered their heroes off the pitch.

After six successive defeats, here was some evidence that perhaps their team are not necessarily sliding inexorably towards the play-off spot and then down to join Hearts and Rangers in next season's Championship.

A win away to Ross County on Tuesday and Hibs will be safe for another season. They left it late here, however. Boy, did they leave it late. Two minutes from time and it looked for all the world as if they were staring at another hard-luck story.

Partick Thistle were leading courtesy of Kris Doolan's early goal and Terry Butcher's side were passing up chance after chance. One final opportunity, though, came the way of Sam Stanton and he looped his header over Paul Gallacher and into the net.

For all Hibs' faults right now - and you'd need a big bit of paper to list them all - they at least showed some fight and character to keep ploughing on in the face of adversity and eventually got their reward. By the time of their equaliser, in fact, they were a man down, Michael Nelson having been sent off 10 minutes from time for fouling Lyle Taylor and picking up a second booking.

If Hibs deserved a draw for persistence then it was rough on Gallacher who put in a superlative performance. It must have crossed Hibs' minds that it was going to be one of those days when a goalkeeper simply couldn't be beaten.

Two stops within a matter of minutes from Nelson - blocking the defender's half-volley from close range, then stretching to tip away a header that was destined for the far corner - were from the top drawer. Hibs manager Terry Butcher joked: "I really hate Paul Gallacher. He makes wonderful saves, he's a top keeper. I'm going to make him retire."

A victory would have all but ensured Thistle's safety but they couldn't find the second goal that would have surely ended Hibs' resistance.

They will look back on a chance missed on the cusp of half-time with some regret as they counter attacked at pace from a Hibs corner. It concluded with Taylor feeding Chris Erskine whose shot lacked the power to beat Ben Williams, a miss that took on greater significance when Hibs unearthed their late equaliser.

"If Chris had scored that would probably have been enough at that point," said a despondent Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager. "We told them at half-time that Hibs would throw everything at us in the second half as they always seem to do that in games.

"Because we were leading it feels like a defeat for us. But a win on Wednesday [at Hearts] should be enough for us."

Butcher, in contrast, cut an ebullient figure, crediting Hibs' change of luck to some good fortune of his own earlier in the day. "When I came here, I thought the F in Hibs FC stood for 'frustration'," he said. "It's the most frustrating time of my career.

"You look at the saves [Gallacher] made and you think, 'is it never going to fall for us?'. But then we got one bit of good fortune and Sam Stanton scored.

"Maybe the luck's turning. I had a walk this morning on North Berwick West golf course and I found two balls. Maybe I need to find four or five for a win."

The early goal Hibs conceded summed up their recent ill-fortune. Granted, they were second best to a header well won by Kallum Higginbotham but when the ball dropped into the box it was a 50:50 bet between Doolan and Williams.

The goalkeeper seemed to have done enough to block the Partick forward's prod goalwards, but the ball ricocheted back off Doolan before spinning towards the line and dribbling into the net.

Less than eight minutes had been played and Hibs were already in deficit. For once, though, their supporters would depart Easter Road smiling.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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