Hibs relinquished their lead of the Ladbrokes Championship to Queen of the South and their opportunity to have their best ever start to a season after a controversial red card for Marvin Bartley proved to be the catalyst for an Ayr United comeback at Easter Road.
Goals from Conrad Balatoni and Brian Gilmour late in the second half cancelled out Cummings’ marvellous opener and condemned Hibs to their first defeat of the season, with Neil Lennon’s words from earlier in the week coming back to haunt the Hibees after he claimed with remarkable prescience that his squad was “not good enough to become complacent”. Queen of the South’s 3-1 win against Raith Rovers meant they leapfrogged the Edinburgh club into first place.
For the majority of the match Hibernian taught an abject Ayr United team a lesson at Easter Road, with the Hibee faithful being treated to all that comes with Lennon’s men at the top of their form until the Bartley sending off.
A fabulous goal from Cummings seemed to begin the inevitable with Hibs looking well on their way to recording a sixth win in six games. Receiving the ball about 25 yards out the Hibee striker shifted the ball onto his left foot before curling a stunner past Ayr goalkeeper Greg Fleming into the top left corner. The goal marked Cummings’ eighth of the season and Hibs’ twelfth. Ayr attempted to respond in kind, with a header following a Gilmour corner cleared off the line by Fraser Fyvie.
Hibs, in the first half had performed something of a masterclass, with the only barrier between Lennon’s men and a perfect A being goals. Grant Holt had a header cleared off the line by Fleming and saw another effort hit the post before Fraser Fyvie’s freekick towards the end of the half brushed the post on its way wide. McGinn, who was controlling the game, had a chance of his own after a poor Fleming punch landed at his feet 25 yards out with his lob just dropping wide.
The match was turned on its head in the 67th minute however, with Marvin Bartley receiving a red card for a nasty tackle in the middle of the park. The decision was roundly met with boos from the Easter Road faithful, but the midfielder lunged in with far too much force for referee Nick Walsh to have much choice but to send the Hibs man off.
Hibs initially continued their dominance after the sending off, with an effort from Paul Hanlon looping over and beyond the right hand post, but that control wasn’t to last. After a corner was needlessly conceded by the Hibs defence, Brian Gilmour’s corner was thumped into the back of the net by defender Conrad Balatoni for his second goal of the season and the equaliser after 74 mins.
The game then turned full circle, on the 80th minute after a barnstorming run from Paddy Devlin, the right back managed to get a cross in from the left hand side directly to Brian Gilmour who converted a simple tap-in past Ofir Marciano.
Hibs attempted to fight back and had a handball shout firmly turned down by Nick Walsh in the last ten minutes. Lennon sent on Martin Boyle, James Keatings and Brian Graham during the course of the game, but none of the substitutions had the desired effect, leaving the Hibees succumbing to a defeat that will surely sting.
Hibs travel to Palmerston Park to play the new league leaders Queen of the South next week, with the team needing to bounce back quickly to regain top spot.
Ayr manager Ian McCall said his players “rode their luck”, but that “for us to come here and win is just fantastic for Ayr United”, adding that Jamie Adams’ leg after Marvin Bartley’s challenge looked “horrendous”.
Neil Lennon said that he “was not convinced it [Bartley’s challenge] was a red card”, saying that the decision changed the game for the Hibees. He added that “we were in total control, even at nil-nil, I think they had the ball in our box twice. What annoys me about today is conceding from a set-play, that shouldn’t happen.
“We were wasteful in front of goal, which is probably the only criticism that I have of the team over the last six games. We don’t put enough on the scoreboard when we’re in control, we’re a bit flagrant in front of goal”.
Image courtesy of Dun.can