HIBERNIAN’s hopes of making the top six for the first time in four years were dealt a blow last night when they were comprehensively beaten by Dundee United at Easter Road.
Terry Butcher’s team are still only three points behind sixth-placed St Johnstone, but on the form they showed in going down 3-1 to United their chances of getting into the upper half before the split are slight.
Second best to United in most departments of the game, Hibs could easily have lost 5-1. Nadir Ciftci had a first-half penalty saved, Gary Mackay-Steven missed another after the break, and United had several other chances from open play that on another night would have gone in. After the game, Butcher offered an apology to the Hibs support for his team’s inability to compete.
The high point of the evening for Hibs was Jordon Forster’s equaliser on the verge of half-time after Ciftci had given United the lead, but once Gavin Gunning made it 2-1 ten minutes into the second half the outcome was hardly in doubt. Substitute Farid El Alagui scored his team’s third late on, by which time Hibs’ task had been made even harder by the sending-off of Tom Taiwo for two bookings. “Not pleasant. Not acceptable. Not good,” was Butcher’s verdict.
“There were two things that went for us tonight and they were the two missed penalties. It could have been a lot worse.
“We were well beaten by a far better team. When they’re in that mood, and allowed to play as we allowed them to play, they can carve you open.
“We got a lifeline at half-time, but the second goal was an absolute killer. We were down 2-1 then possibly our best midfield player, Tom Taiwo, was sent off, and it makes it really impossible after that. Then there was the third goal and it could have been more
“It was men against boys at the end. Anything that could have gone wrong did tonight.
“We started the game pretty well. The first 20 minutes wasn’t too bad. And then we just seemed to fall out of the game.
“It was a difficult night for us, no two ways about it. I’ve apologised to the Hibs fans, because it was unacceptable. It was not nice to watch.”
Unsurprisingly, United manager Jackie McNamara had an altogether different reaction to a result that put his team back up to fourth, ahead of Inverness Caledonian Thistle on goal difference.
“I thought the performance was very good,” Macnamara said. “I was disappointed to go in at half-time 1-1.”
The United manager was even in the mood to be charitable about the Ciftci penalty, which was so weakly hit that Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams had little difficulty in saving it.
“I’ve seen Nadir score with a few of them,” McNamara said, before conceding: “It looks very bad when they don’t come off.”