Before this game Hibernian hadn’t won on their Championship travels since their previous visit to Greenock at the beginning of February and there seemed little chance of them breaking that unfortunate sequence.
This campaign has come unstuck on the road. Hibs’ next away match after that defeat of Morton was at Livingston, where their only other 0-0 draw of the season blew a chance to put pressure on Rangers.
Shortly after came losses at Dumbarton, Queen of the South and Raith Rovers, a draw at St Mirren and another defeat at Alloa Athletic. The Hibs fans in the Wee Dublin End on Saturday would have been reflecting on those games – the slow starts, bad bounces and missed chances – and wondering which of them could have turned out differently.
Even one additional point gathered from somewhere would have put them in a better position than they are this week, following Falkirk’s last-gasp draw at Raith which, unless it is suddenly going to rain goals in Leith, leaves the Bairns as the team with second-place destiny in their hands. Hibs have to beat Dumbarton tomorrow night and hope Morton show the same gutsiness when they travel to Falkirk on Saturday.
Hibs defender Paul Hanlon admitted his team had been hoping Raith would do them a favour against Falkirk and, really, they did. More had been required of the Leith side. “Now all we can do is win our last two games and hope that gets us second,” added Hanlon. “We need to win them, that’s all we can control.”
Hibs had gone into this game on a high. Beating Rangers last midweek had been “euphoric”, the centre-back said. But a team reluctant to come out from two banks of four, even in their last home game of the season, on a bumpy pitch with no atmosphere in the ground, had been a different proposition.
“It was a lively pitch and we didn’t control the ball as well as we could,” Hanlon added. “But I thought we were a bit flat everywhere. We didn’t do enough in the final third – it was disappointing.”
One goal would probably have won the game. Jason Cummings, pictured above, put the ball in the net but was ruled offside, a decision his manager Alan Stubbs had misgivings about, while Morton’s Bobby Barr slipped the ball through Mark Oxley’s legs only to see his effort strike a post before being cleared.
“I thought during the game that whoever got a goal would probably win it and I felt if anyone was going to score it would be us,” said Hanlon. “I didn’t feel we were under pressure at any time but there was a bit of a lack of quality and some wrong decision-making and these things cost us.
“Regarding Jason’s effort, I was at the other end of the pitch but it was Lewis [Stevenson] who played the reverse pass and it was the sort Jason lives for. It was obviously disappointing to see the goal ruled offside.”
Tomorrow’s game is the last of Hibs’ re-arranged matches because of their cup heroics and they finish the league programme with a visit from Queen of the South.
The only chance they’ll get a break before the Scottish Cup final is if they falter in the play-offs and they have to be ready to compete in them right up to their Hampden date on 21 May and beyond if they’re to get out of this division.
“The manager told us not to be too down about this game,” said Hanlon. “We’ll have a good recovery session and be ready to go again against Dumbarton. But it’s going to be a busy end to the season.”