Hibs 1, Raith 1: Draw knocks Lennon’s side off top spot

Martin Boyle prepares to smash home Hibs' late equaliser
Martin Boyle prepares to smash home Hibs' late equaliser
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Hibs were knocked off the top of the Championship table for the first time since October 15 as Raith Rovers held Neil Lennon’s side to a draw in their last home game of 2016.

The Easter Road side appeared destined for a defeat as Jean-Yves M’Voto’s early second half header looked to have give the Kirkcaldy outfit a surprise win.

But although Raith mounted a gallant rearguard action, Hibs substitute Martin Boyle found space to drill home a low shot to rescue a point for the Edinburgh side in the 89th minute. But with title rivals Dundee United having beaten bottom side St Mirren, it is the Tannadice club which tonight sits top of the pile.

Hibs made all the early chances, Dylan McGeouch’s through ball just not anticipated by Grant Holt before the midfielder’s pass picked out Jason Cummins who saw his shot blocked by Raith goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert.

Another McGeouch pass opened up the Raith defence again but Andrew Shinnie’s first touch was poor and the opening was lost. Kris Commons then worked space for himself only to see his low shot creep just wide of target before defender Paul Hanlon charged forward and fed Andrew Shinnie, the midfielder finding his way to goal blocked by Kyle Benedictus.

Hibs continued to pile on the pressure as they sought to break the deadlock, Cummings forcing Cuthbert down low to his left to push the striker’s low effort round the post.

Raith’s Rudi Skacel was luckly to avoid a red card for a wreckless challenge on McGeouch just in front of the dug-outs, with the former Hearts midfielder escaping with a yellow card.

The Easter Road side were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when, totally against the run of play, Raith took the lead four minutes after the interval, and how simple it was. Chris Johnston’s cross found M’Voto totally unmarked and the defender took full advantage to send a downward header beyond goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw.

That goal gave Raith something to hang onto and with M’Voto and Benedictus imperious in the centre of their defence, Hibs were left struggling to find an equaliser and, in fact, they were lucky not to fall two behind when former Hearts player Jason Thomson strode forward from left back to unleash a powerful shot from range which had his former team-mate Laidlaw beaten again. But on this occasion the ball crashed back off the top of the goalkeeper’s crossbar and bounced to safety.

Hibs were becoming desperate as the minutes ticked away. The home fans were increasingly anxious and boss Lennon tried to remedy the situation by replacing on-loan Celtic midfielder Commons, who had been having a quiet home debut. with James Keatings. It almost did the trick, with the striker firing in a deep cross to the back post where Holt could do no better than head wide.

But just as it looked as if Hibs were slipping to defeat, substitute Boyle found finally found space inside the Raith penalty area to drill a low shot beyond Cuthbert.

Hibs: Laidlaw, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Martin, McGeouch (Graham 84), Commons (Keatings 66), Shinnie, Cummings (Boyle 74), Holt.

Substitutes not used: Virtanen, Fontaine, Bartley, Crane.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Jason Thomson, M’Voto, Benedictus, Matthews, Johnston, Davidson, Skacel (Stewart 74), B Barr, Jordan Thompson (C Barr 84), McManus.

Substitutes not used: Lennox, Osei, Vaughan, Coustrain, Roberts.

Referee: Greg Aitken