Shortly after the last time Hibs lost 3-0 to Morton at Easter Road they went to Dumbarton and were thumped 4-0. This didn’t quite happen yesterday but the defeat was still dismal and extremely damaging.
With Rangers yet again scoring late to increase their lead at the top of the Championship to 11 points, Hibs manager Alan Stubbs refused to concede the title but admitted it would be “very very difficult” for his team to return to the top flight as champions.
The green-and-white faithful need to keep some perspective. The season of that earlier three-goal Morton beating – 1918-19 – must have been a horrible one. The Hibees were also skelped 5-1 by Third Lanark, 5-0 by Ayr United and 9-2 in the reverse fixture with Morton.
This campaign they’re about to contest the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup, followed by the final of the League Cup. It could still be a memorable year but they’ll have to get the show back on the road – and quickly.
Stubbs said: “We need to cut out the silly mistakes. Dumbarton’s second goal was an individual error and the third was down to lack of concentration. I can’t fault the players’ effort but trying to come back from three goals down was a big ask. It’s a disappointing result.”
Hibs were going for the fourth-minute breakthrough which had proved so effective against Hearts and Alloa Athletic but which had eluded them against Morton, with Liam Henderson connecting sweetly with a Niklas Gunnarsson cross only to see his left-foot volley clip the bar.
Thereafter Henderson orchestrated things and Dumbarton were well pegged back, but Jason Cummings and James Keatings were given few clear opportunities by the hulking Gregor Buchanan in the centre of the home defence, abetted by grizzled veteran Frazer Wright.
Little was seen of John McGinn and Kevin Cawley fairly skipped past the Hibs man in the 20th minute to give Dumbarton the lead. In plenty of space 20 yards out he beat Mark Oxley down at his bottom right-hand corner.
When it comes to hulking, though, Buchanan must bow down to Christian Nade. Even Dumbarton Rock behind the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium’s only stand must do this. Baited throughout about his size – and of course his Hearts heritage – he moved nippily in the 42nd minute to increase Dumbarton’s lead.
Mark Docherty crossed from the left and the big man glanced a header past Oxley, who may have chosen the wrong option in thinking he could get to the delivery first.
The away support were hugely frustrated. Shouting at the referee for what they perceived to be constant time-wasting by Sons goalkeeper Jamie Ewings, they exploded when the official held up play so Jamie Lindsay could tie his lace.
This game was unravelling for the Hibs fans, if not quite the season, and the police had to deal with an angry argument in the stand.
Dumbarton’s third came three minutes after the restart when you imagine the Hibs dressing-room had resounded to strong words and determined urgings. It was a simple job, though, for Sons to find the net again, with Calum Waters’ corner being met at the near post by Darren Barr, another with Jambo previous, having scored in Hearts’ 5-1 Scottish Cup final hammering of Hibs
Finally Stubbs’ team responded, Henderson cutting in from the edge of the box to curl a right-footer into the postage-stamp corner.
Hibs continued to have almost all of the play, Martin Boyle hitting a post before fellow substitute Farid El Alagui drove home their second after Dumbarton failed to clear a corner.
Just moments earlier, Nade, when he was replaced, strolled past the away fans and after he’d endured what he thought was quite enough abuse, flashed the 5-1 hand-sign.
You can imagine the reaction in the stand, but it was forgotten as Hibs continued their comeback. El Alagui had given them an aerial threat and Boyle some much needed zip. Henderson, in a relentless performance not matched by enough of his team-mates, took one last corner but Cummings seemed to mistime his jump and could only head over.
Dumbarton manager Stevie Aitken was relieved to hear the final whistle. He said: “We had to dig deep in the second half. Hibs flung everything at us but to a man I thought we were outstanding.”