In almost a carbon copy of the corresponding fixture at Easter Road earlier this season, former Hearts striker Christian Nade snatched a second-half equaliser to deny Hibs three points in a game the home side should have won by half time.
Scorers: Hibernian - Boyle 46; Raith Rovers - Nade 90
This time Nade left his goal to much later than the 68th minute in which he scored last October – stoppage time, in fact, and boy, did he celebrate.
Substitute Dale Carrick, on emergency loan from Hearts and making his debut, won a corner on the right wing for Raith. Fellow substitute Ryan Conroy’s cross to the back post seemed to hang in the stiff cold breeze and Nade rose to head the ball downwards into the goal in textbook fashion despite the attention of the Hibs defence and goalkeeper Mark Oxley’s despairing dive.
“I would have been the worst player on the pitch if I hadn’t scored,” said Nade afterwards.
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Hibs manager Alan Stubbs rued his side’s failure to leapfrog Rangers and go second, but said: “I am not going to criticise the players for a 1-1 draw when we could have won by five.”
A minute’s applause was held before the match to commemorate Hibs’ much-respected former chairman Douglas Cromb, who passed away ten days ago.
The first 45 minutes were a repeat of October’s proceedings as Raith played with nine outfield players in the rear and only Nade up front, the former Hearts striker happy to play the pantomime villain role.
Alan Stubbs has fashioned a good team at Easter Road, built on solid all-round play centred on a strong midfield four of Scott Allan, Scott Robertson, Dylan McGeouch and captain Liam Craig, who dominated proceedings.
New signing Keith Watson went straight into the side, and probed forward usefully from right back, Lewis Stevenson doing the same on the left and Liam Fontaine and Paul Hanlon rock solid in defence.
It was a one-way procession for much of the half, David McGurn in the visitors’ goal pulling off save after save from those shots and headers which Hibs didn’t contrive to put wide and high of the target.
As early as the third minute, Martin Boyle saw his shot deflected wide, before Jason Cummings’ shot from 25 yards was held by McGurn only at the second attempt.
Before and after Paul Hanlon was booked for a scything tackle on Nade – his colleagues Stevenson and Craig plus Ross Callachan and Grant Anderson of Rovers also saw yellow in what was not a dirty game – Allan fired in decent shots from the edge of the area, the first going high and the second blocked.
It took 22 minutes for Raith to earn a chance, Anderson’s shot blocked before he sent the rebound wide. That was it for the visitors in the first half, but how Hibs must rue the chances they squandered. Fontaine headed wide, Watson had a shot kept out and Robertson made a mess of the follow-up, before Allan sent Boyle clean through only for McGurn to save again.
Craig headed wide from an Allan cross and then the captain himself provided a free kick from which McGurn denied Watson, before the Raith goalie pulled off the save of the match, diving to tip Cummings’ low shot on to the post. McGurn denied Cummings again, before Craig twice missed with headers.
Boyle had opined during the week that he was doing everything right except score, but he laid that bogey within seconds of the restart, sliding the ball under McGurn after Allan’s adroit pass.
Hibs should have been out of sight by the hour mark, but McGurn again denied Cummings twice in succession, before turning Craig’s 25-yard rocket over the bar. Boyle then had a ‘goal’ ruled offside.
This s eemed to spur Raith to greater efforts, but it was still a surprise when Nade gave us déjà vu and made it 1-1.
Hibs: Oxley, Watson, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, Allan Robertson (Handling, 51), Craig , McGeouch (Martin, 88), Boyle, Cummings (Dja Djedje, 73). Subs not used: Cerny, Forster, Stanton, L Allan.
Raith: McGurn, Thomson, Watson, Hill, McKeown, Anderson (Conroy, 69), Callachan, Moon, McKay, Stewart (Carrick, 69), Nade. Subs not used: Cuthbert, Fox, Scott, Vaughan, Barr.
Referee: E Anderson. Attendance: 9,021.