Hibs 0-0 Kilmarnock: Stalemate at Easter Road as Hibs secure top six and Killie stay third

Kilmarnock's Greg Taylor is closed down by Marc McNulty. Picture: SNS Group
Kilmarnock's Greg Taylor is closed down by Marc McNulty. Picture: SNS Group
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Kilmarnock did enough to hold onto third place but Hibs passed up the opportunity to move ahead of derby foes Hearts as this fixture failed to serve up its usual glut of goals.

The intention was there but with both defences on top, it was the first 0-0 between these two since 2001.

Hibs and Kilmarnock each made one change to the teams that earned them three points against Livingston and Hamilton at the weekend, with the home side dropping Mark Milligan back into the backline in place of Darren McGregor and bringing Vykintas Slivka in to fill the midfield void.

With three games in eight days culminating in a trip across the city for the capital derby on Saturday and probably too packed a schedule for McGregor and his body to negotiate optimally it was no doubt felt that the regular centre-back would be better utilised against Hearts.

Kilmarnock, also decided to rest their veteran, this time leaving striker Kris Boyd on the bench for the first half, rejigging the formation and bringing Rangers-bound Jordan Jones back into the starting line-up but with things still at stalemate, they reassessed that decision at the interval and sent the experienced former Scotland international on to try to break the deadlock.

But this was a game that did not want to shake a goal free and looking to shake up his formation, Paul Heckingbottom also relented and sent on McGregor so he could free up Milligan to move into the middle of the park and swap to two up front.

The two sides were packed with creativity and attacking options and the exploratory forays forward were frequent as they took it turnabout to charge at the opposition rearguard looking for the chink of light that would guide them into the lead.

But there was so much at stake and while they poked and prodded, there was an element of caution in the attacks as they both battled to protect their defence.

With games running out, third placed-Killie still have their sights set on trying to peg back the Ibrox side and finish a remarkable season in second place. For the home side the task was two-fold. They wanted a win to guarantee them a top six finish and the chance to leapfrog rivals Hearts, and swagger into Saturday’s head-to-head above them.

But if there was plenty of end to end action, real opportunities proved elusive as both sides struggled to find the required cutting edge in the final third.

Recent meetings between this pair had been goal gluts but there was little goalmouth action of note in the opening 45 minutes, as Aaron Tshibola shot over in the 24th minute for the visitors and the goalkeepers served as spectators.

Eventually, a dynamic intervention from Stephane Omeonga saw Hibs burst free from deep inside their own half when the Belgian Under-21 midfielder got the better of Youssouf Mulumbu and kick-started a sweeping passing move up the pitch. Killie were chasing shadows but when Daryl Horgan was played in Daniel Bachmann was equal to his final shot.

Marciano was to plat his part in keeping the guests at bay in the 43rd minute when a Rory McKenzie free-kick was met by Kirk Broadfoot but his downward header was parried by the Israeli keeper.

In the 51st minute Stevie Mallan had a dig from distance but Bachmann held it comfortably and with Killie beginning to gain the upperhand, it was down to Marciano to keep them at bay, sparing team-mate Paul Hanlon’s blushes in the process.

Five minutes later the Hibs captain was slack with a pass allowing Jones to pounce but as he closed in, Marciano was quick off his line to produce a great one handed save.

Killie boss, Steve Clarke, looking for the win that would maintain the gap between themselves and third-place Aberdeen,made a double switch and the most notable party was Chris Burke, who won a corner almost immediately. He picked out Broadfoot with his delivery but when his header dropped to Boyd, he sent his close range effort wide.

Burke caused more problems in the 84th minute when another corner was zipped into the box and bounced off Boyd but again Marciano was in the right place to get down behind it and prevent Killie leaving Leith with anything more than a point.

Hibs: Marciano, Gray, Milligan, Hanlon, Stevenson, Horgan (Murray 78), Slivka (McGregor 64), Mallan, Omeonga, Kamberi (Shaw 74), McNulty. Subs not used: Bogdan, Bartley, Mackie, Allan

Kilmarnock: Bachmann, O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Findlay, Taylor, McKenzie (Burke 71), Mulumbu, Dicker, Tshibola (Power 71), Jones, McAleny (Boyd 46). Subs not used: MacDonald, Bruce, Waters, Millar