THE self-help books insist that one learns in times of turmoil.

Pat Fenlon must therefore be on the verge of gaining a PhD in crisis management. A late Scott Robertson equaliser at Easter Road offered a redemptive twist to a story that was heading at speed towards a damning dissertation on the Irishman's job prospects. A smack of the midfielder's right boot and Fenlon lives to learn again.

What was almost forgotten in the furore over Fenlon is that Dundee United and Jackie McNamara are also enduring trying times. United and Hibernian have in tandem had six attempts at winning a league match this season and come up short.

So what did both managers take, apart from a point, from Saturday's match? Fenlon accepts that his team lack confidence, an unsurprising state of affairs given that they came into the match against United with four consecutive defeats and no goals scored in their competitive matches.

Once Stuart Armstrong had given United the lead, Hibs seemed lost, almost adrift on a sea of troubles. The passing was both hesitant and misplaced, and the forward pairing of Rowan Vine and James Collins were innocuous to the point of submissiveness. Collins, incredibly, won the man of the match award in a vote that must have been conducted among close members of his family and even then there could have been a recount. The increasingly damning evidence laid mercilessly before Fenlon was that his team lacked belief and the capacity to score. Yet he managed to manage at half-time. Hibs came out with a stronger attitude and a willingness to make a contest of a match that should have been beyond them.

Emblematic of this was the diminutive Lewis Stevenson, switched from his left-back position to combat the dangerous Gary Mackay-Steven. "He's a top player, he's in the Scotland squad for a reason," said Stevenson. "And, with it being the opposite side for me, I had a few doubts as I was jogging over. But I played against him at right-back last year and did all right. It was the most tired I'd ever felt, at the end of the game, because of how hard I had to work."

Mackay-Steven had confounded Fraser Mullen, forcing the substitution of the Hibs player, but he did not quite have the decisive impact on the match that seemed inevitable when he was running with pace and guile for the second part of the first half and the early exchanges of the second. His decision-making was just awry enough to allow Fenlon to spend the rest of the weekend contemplating with hope rather than angst.

The first goal and point are on the board and he must believe that Collins and Vine can combine to augment both tallies. Danny Handling was intermittently impressive and Ben Williams excellent in goal. The departure of Kevin Thomson, sent off with Gavin Gunning after a clash, also showed his team is capable of defiance under pressure.

McNamara, meanwhile, was disconsolate at losing a goal and two points after his team had played the better and more threatening football. His coaching lesson will be focused on how to improve Mackay-Steven and bring David Goodwillie back up to speed. "Gaz is good in training but he is probably a better match-day player," said Sean Dillon of his flying team-mate. "Some people would say it is a negative that he does not show his full potential in training - although he is not lazy - but you see the best of him in game situations."

McNamara's task is to make that trait even more noticeable. Mackay-Steven, like most young wingers, needs to be advised on how to pursue the best option in specific situations. This has nothing to do with him being selfish on the ball, for his most glaring wrong choice was to pass rather than seeking to outrun Ryan McGivern in one incident as United broke quickly. He will mature naturally and with the help of McNamara.

Goodwillie is short of what can be his devastating best. His return to full powers will be crucial for United. They are capable of counter-attacking at speed and with no little technique through the combined effort of such as Mackay-Steven, Paul Paton, Ryan Dow and Armstrong, and a confident Goodwillie would be expected to finish such surges with a devastating flourish.

McNamara and Fenlon have still to record their first SPFL Premiership victory this season but all is far from being lost.