A stoppage time equaliser from Martin Boyle on his return from injury rescued a point for Hibernian in the dying moments, as they fought back from two goals down at home to Livingston. Hibs haven’t won since the opening day of the season, and with the pressure mounting on struggling manager Paul Heckingbottom, boos rang around the stadium as the home crowd expressed their dissatisfaction for yet another disappointing performance.
On a cold evening in Leith, the opening few minutes saw a quick start from both teams to get the crowd up off their feet, with both the Hibs and Livingston delegation appearing rather small in numbers. A wonderful save from Hibs keeper Chris Maxwell in the third minute prevented the worst possible start for the home side as Livingston began with intent. The opening twenty minutes consisted of a quick start from both teams, although play in the middle of the pitch tended to be scrappy, with neither side appearing to be able to dictate proceedings and put together any sustained patterns of play.
Nonetheless, Hibs began to grow into the game and a smart bit of play from Scott Allan on the half hour mark, after a dummy that left the defender on his heels, was the first real test of Matija Sarkic’s goal, but the Livingston keeper was equal to his shot and parried it away. Soon afterwards, Sarkic once again had to be at his very best as a sizzling Tom James shot from distance was only prevented from rippling the net by the Livingston man’s fingertips. With chances created, Hibs fans dared to be optimistic, returning to full voice. However, two Livingston goals in three minutes just before half time sucked any joy from their lungs and provoked a visceral reaction from the home crowd as the half-time whistle went. Boos echoed around Easter Road, whilst the Livingston fans delighted in their rendition of “you’re getting sacked in the morning”, directed at the hapless Heckingbottom. It’s been a favourite with away supporters this year.
The fragility of Hibernian’s defence has been a constant bane throughout this season, and both goals came about due to a failure to properly clear balls into their box. Steven Lawless scored the first Livingston goal as his shot from space at the edge of the area cannoned against Paul Hanlon and went into the corner. The away side doubled their lead minutes later as Craig Sibbald placed his left-footed effort into the top corner, after the Hibs defence once again failed to close down space in the box.
The introduction of Flo Kamberi after half time seemed to give Hibs more of a dynamic edge in the second half, and Heckingbottom can be pleased with the reaction from his side even though they were wasteful with their efforts. Just after the hour mark, Allan won a penalty after Marvin Bartley clipped his heels, and Allan himself converted in emphatic fashion. Just moments later Hibs should have been level after Hanlon missed a header from a six yards out when it seemed easier to score. The home side passed the ball a lot better in the second half and weren’t as horizontal as they were in the opening forty five minutes, allowing them to mount some sustained pressure on the Livingston goal.
Unfortunately, all of Hibs’s hard work in getting back into the game appeared for a second to be undone as Scott Tiffoney rounded the keeper after Stevie Mallan’s woeful back pass, but proceeded to slide the ball wide of the open goal, a truly shocking miss.
Heckingbottom introduced Boyle to loud applause from the crowd with ten minutes remaining, and his pace was crucial in Hibs’s stoppage time equaliser. A speculative punt over the top appeared to confuse the Livingston centre backs, and Boyle latched onto it, bringing the ball down and slotting past Sarkic into the far corner. Easter Road at last had something to cheer about, although boos still met Heckingbottom at the final whistle, placing further question marks over his future.
Image: Sam Barrett