When Hibs came from behind to defeat Livingston in midweek they must have felt like they’d turned a corner following an alarming run of poor form. On the contrary, it was only about to get worse. Yesterday’s loss to already relegated Alloa carried with it the ignominy of becoming the first side to lose at the Indodrill Stadium all season. And what’s worse, aside from the contentiousness of Michael Duffy’s winner, it was difficult for Hibs to begrudge the result.
It became apparent early in the contest Hibs had still not emerged from their funk. In fact, there existed an apathy around the fixture in general. The home support were watching their team for the first time after suffering relegation. And while the visiting fans came in strong numbers, there wasn’t the type of fans-on-a-jolly atmosphere that typified earlier trips to humble, lower league stadiums. The novelty has long worn off. They want to be back among the big boys.
Hibs had more opportunities, which was to be expected, but they lost the physical and mental battle with a side who, in terms of the game’s impact on the league table, had nothing to play for. Anthony Stokes had their best chance of the first half, nodding wide from a corner, after Jason Cummings and James Keatings had each gone close in the early exchanges. But even though Alloa were struggling to create, they remained a threat on the counter and confirmed their menace right on half-time.
Iain Flannigan slung in a ball from the right wing and striker Duffy lashed it towards goal. It struck the underside of the crossbar, bounced at the goal-line and rebounded back into play. Initially it seemed a goal would not be awarded, but the assistant referee agreed with Alloa’s insistence that it had crossed the line, much to the chagrin of Hibs.
“I’ve watched it back a couple of times and it’s not conclusive,” said manager Alan Stubbs. “He [the linesman] can’t be sure with the speed that it’s been hit and bounces down, and it’s left me talking about another decision, which I don’t want to be doing.”
A reaction was expected of the away players at the start of the second half but it still took a while to arrive with Alloa comfortably holding on to the advantage for the first 15 minutes. From that point forward Hibs upped their tempo and began to stream forward in numbers, but it still wasn’t enough to overwhelm the home defence, who doggedly stuck to their task and used the narrow Indodrill pitch to their advantage, flooding the centre of the penalty area whenever Hibs threatened.
Fraser Fyvie had an effort deflected wide before David Gray glanced a back-post header wide of goal. Stokes then went close with a rising shot from distance that substitute goalkeeper David Crawford – on for the injured Scott Gallacher – parried away. The frustration in the crowd then became palpable when Cummings skewed a chance so far wide of goal that it almost went out for a throw-in. The day nearly got that little bit worse for the travelling support when Duffy went through on the right-hand side before having his shot saved by Mark Oxley.
The match could be summarised by the final opportunity after Stokes burst into the centre of the penalty area. Despite dribbling past two defenders he still couldn’t get away a clean strike at goal for the yellow and black shirts in front of him, players who were putting their bodies on the line to get the result. It’s an attitude Hibs could learn from as they look to restore their crumbling season to its former promise.