Derek Riordan was both saint and sinner as Hibs threw away victory against Inverness Caledonian Thistle this afternoon.
The Hibs striker opened the scoring after just eight minutes but his later miss from the penalty spot was to prove costly as Caley claimed an equaliser nine minutes from time. Striker Adam Rooney cracking home from 12 yards out after Hibs Steven Thicot tripped Danni Sanchez inside the penalty area.
Hibs boss John Hughes handed debuts to transfer day signings Francis Dickoh and Jonathan Grounds, the presence of the former Utrecht defender resulting in club skipper Chris Hogg being dropped to the bench. But there was no place for on-loan striker Darryl Duffy who, reportedly, broke a bone in his foot in training yesterday.
With Hogg and his deputy Ian Murray both among the substitutes, it was midfielder Kevin McBride, free from suspension who took over the armband who took the armband as Hibs sought to get back on the winning trail following successive defeats by Rangers and St Mirren.
The Easter Road outfit, seeking to end a run of six consecutive defeats at home, got off to the perfect start with the opening goal in just eight minutes courtesy of a delightful finish from Riordan. Grounds and David Wotherspoon did the spade work down the left, paving the way for Colin Nish to slip the ball to his fellow striker who nut-megged Caley defender Grant Munro before sidefooting the ball into the far corner of the net.
Hibs continued to prod and prove throughout the first half, two clever passes from Riordan prising open a resolute Caley defence but Edwin de Graaf and Grounds were unable to take full advantage. Caley, for their part, rarely threatened until Eric Odhimabo directed a cut-back to the feet of Adam Rooney who saw his close-range shot blocked by the outstretched left boot of Hibs goalkeeper Mark Brown.
A careless clearance from former Hibs player David Proctor gifted Wotherspoon a chance to double Hibs lead two minutes from the interval but the midfielder blazed high over.
Riordan did almost make it two with a superb free-kick five minutes into the second half which Caley goalkeeper Ryan Esson was happy to see deflected over before the fragility of Hibs single goal lead was highlighted when Rooney evaded the offside trap only to see his rising shot crash back off Brown's right-hand post with the goalkeeper beaten.
Suddenly a Hibs defence which had looked so assured throughout the opening period took on a less confidence appearance and when Edwin de Graaf was caught in possession they were lucky to see Rooney's pass force Odhiambo wide.
The Dutch star was again the sinner eight minutes later when Nish broke through, his shot parried by Esson into de Graaf's path but the midfielder, with an open goal at his mercy, somehow managed to drive it over, reminiscent of his miss against Rangers at the same end three weeks ago.
Hibs were presented with another gilt-edged chance to double their lead in the 65th minute when Proctor tripped Riordan in the penalty area, referee Crawford Allan having no hesitation in pointing to the spsot but Riordan stood horror-struck as his spot-kick crashed back off the post.
And Hibs were made to pay for that miss nine minutes from time when substitute Steven Thicot was guilty of a lazy challenge on Caley's Danni Sanchez, referee Allan again pointing immediately to the spot. And Rooney, unlike Riordan, made no mistake, smashing the ball low and hard beyond Brown.
Hibs: Brown, Hart (Thicot 63), Dickoh, Bamba, Grounds, De Graaf (Galbraith 67), McBride, Miller, Wotherspoon, Nish, Riordan. Subs not used: Smith, Hogg, Murray, Hanlon, Rankin.
Inverness CT: Esson, Proctor, Tokely, Munro, Gillet (Innes 46), Hayes, Cox, Duff, Ross (Sanchez 67), Rooney, Odhiambo (Sutherland 80). Subs not used: Tuffey, Duncan, McBain, Morrison.
Referee: Crawford Allan.