Dunfermline 1-1 Hibs: Hibees forced to settle for a 12th draw of the season

Hibernian remain on track for the Championship title but saw their lead at the top of the table trimmed to nine points with just five matches remaining as they had to settle for a draw at East End Park.
Neil Lennon issues instructions from the touchline. Pic: SNS/Ross ParkerNeil Lennon issues instructions from the touchline. Pic: SNS/Ross Parker
Neil Lennon issues instructions from the touchline. Pic: SNS/Ross Parker

John McGinn had given the Easter Road side a first half lead but a handball by Lewis Stevenson allowed Kallum Higginbotham to level from the penalty spot. Morton were overtaken in second place by Falkirk as they went down to Dumbarton while the Bairns enjoyed a 1-0 win over Raith Rovers to now trail the captial side by nine points and with a faint hope that they might yet overhaul them.

Brian McLean made his debut for Hibs as Paul Hanlon, just back from a lengthy injury absence, dropped out in the build-up to the match with his name already on the team-sheet. As a result young Fraser Murray was drafted onto the bench where he was joined by Grant Holt and James Keatings as Brian Graham and Dylan McGeouch, substitutes against Morton in midweek, started.

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It took Hibs just 12 minutes to get themselves in front, McGinn picking up a loose clearance as Dunfermline dealt with a Jason Cummings corner before sidestepping Paul McMullan and from 25 yards drilling a low shot beyond former Hibs goalkeeper Sean Murdoch and into the bottom left hand corner of his net.

McMullan almost atoned for that lapse when he caught Ofir Marciano wanting too much time with the ball at his feet, the Pars midfielder nipping in to take it off him only for the Hibs goalkeeper to recover and block his shot.

Marciano was at full stretch a few minutes later to tip over a Callum Morris header from Higginbotham’s free-kick which was threatening to drop under his bar. At the other end Graham got his head to Stevenson’s cross but sent the ball a yard wide.

McGinn was running the show as far as Hibs were concerned, threading a ball through which was intended for Jason Cummings but Murdoch spotted the danger and raced from his line to smother.

Hibs almost doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart, Murdoch diving to his left to push away McGinn’s powerfully struck shot. Cummings latched onto the ball and put it back into the danger area but Graham scuffed his shot from three yards out and the chance was gone.

But it was Dunfermline who got themselves back on level terms in the 57th minute, assistant referee Willie Ferguson indicating to match official Greg Aitken there had been a handball by Hibs Stevenson leading to a penalty for the home side, a fact that had been spotted by the home fans who were roaring for the spot-kick. Marciano went the right way and got his hand to Higginbotham’s effort but couldn’t stop the ball crossing the line.

Dunfermline would reckon they were well worth that equaliser and few would have disagreed but Hibs attempted to hit back, a driving run from McGinn and a pass to Stevenson resulting in a cross from the left back which sailed only inches over his team-mate’s head.

The Pars, so unfortunate in having to settle for a point at Easter Road a few weeks back, obviously thought there was a winner in it for them and Michael Moffat went close with a volley from six yards out which was straight at Marciano.