• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Three points forward, two points back for Hibernian

No sooner had the chants inviting Jim Jefferies to cheer up died down than the Hibernian support were muted.

Nicky Law celebrates  his stunning equaliser at Easter Road. Picture: PA
Nicky Law celebrates his stunning equaliser at Easter Road. Picture: PA

The tension at Easter Road seemed to be dissipating, with a nine-point chasm between them and Jefferies' Dunfermline Athletic looming tantalisingly into view, and up popped Nicky Law to hit a rasping volley for an equaliser. And there went two points.

"I thought we deserved it [the win]," said Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon. "We were very good in the first half and I am disappointed we didn't hang on. It will give the players confidence. It is a better cushion than we had a few weeks ago but it is still not in the bag. We're trying to make sure the players are comfortable. They played a lot better today and it's important they try and keep that going."

For Hibs, the five games left still carry a threat. The seven points between them and bottom-of-the-league Dunfermline may appear significant enough, but with 15 to play for, nothing is certain.

If they hang on by the skin of their teeth there will be no complaints, but it is hard to get away from the fact that it has been a wretched season for the Easter Road side.

One moment in the second half perhaps summed that up, as Pa Kujabi spent an age teeing up a 35-yard free kick only to hit the ball towards the corner flag – a reminder perhaps of why Hibs are in a precarious position.

Motherwell, by contrast, have been basking in the plaudits that come with fighting at the top end of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, but their losses to Rangers and Kilmarnock have given the impression of a team running out of steam.

As the league splits in two, the point from Easter Road will aid their campaign for third – and the Champions League qualifying spot – although St Johnstone, Dundee United and Hearts are close enough to cause Stuart McCall's side some jitters.

A venomous free-kick from Garry O'Connor just before the half-hour mark had given Hibs a goal advantage, and added to the conviction with which they appeared to have started the game, only to repeatedly find their undoing came in the final third.

Ivan Sproule used his pace to great effect, cajoling Keith Lasley into the foul from which O'Connor scored and, while Leigh Griffiths seems to come with a perennial petted lip, the on-loan Wolves winger offered Hibs a significant outlet on the flank. Too often, though, balls were hit into a box devoid of green jerseys.

Motherwell bothered Hibs more in the second half, and Chris Humphrey was a persistent nuisance to the home defence with his pace but, had Tom Soares' effort not bounced off the bar, things would have been different.

However, with 81 minutes played Soares headed out Lasley's cross only for Law to pounce on the edge of the box to dispatch a ferocious volley past the despairing hand of Graham Stack. The setback notwithstanding, there was still time for Hibs to turn things to their advantage once again.

Jonathan Page, booked in the first half for a late challenge on the Hibs goalkeeper, was dismissed in the final minutes after blocking Roy O'Donovan, but from the resultant free-kick O'Connor blasted high over the bar – and that, as they say, was that.

McCall now has the challenge of grasping that Champions League spot and, with five points between Motherwell and St Johnstone, it is to be expected that they will see it out.

"Probably got what we deserved? Have you seen the possession stats?" he joked when asked whether a draw was just about right. "Once we got the goal back we wanted to go on and win it."

So while both managers will stake a claim to this game, they will, however, agree that there is still much to play for.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

90945