Hibs 1-1 Livingston: Jack Ross believes Hibs should have had a second penalty

Hibs paid the penalty for another missed spot kick, robbing themselves of the opportunity to leapfrog Livingston and close in on a European spot.

Christian Doidge, right, celebrates his goal with Martin Boyle. Picture: Alan Harvey / SNS
Christian Doidge, right, celebrates his goal with Martin Boyle. Picture: Alan Harvey / SNS

Putting Scott Allan’s 22nd minute profligacy behind them, the home side still took the lead in the 50th minute, only to be pegged back within five minutes. But there was further penalty frustration in the final throes of the game as the referee chose to wave aside shouts for a more obvious handball in the box, when the ball struck Ciaron Brown’s arm.

“At the time I am guessing because I am far away but watching it back it is probably more clear than the one we got,” said Leith boss Jack Ross, who chose to focus on the afternoon’s positives. “It is what it is. But the definition of the rules is that if one is given then the other should be because they are pretty similar. But we move on.”

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Asked if the fact that referee Alan Newlands had already penalised Livingston played a part in his late reticence, the Hibs boss was in playful mood. “Oh I could not possibly say that. Although it is maybe not a bad time to get in trouble with the SFA,” he added, in reference to the ongoing issues regarding SFA procedures and James Keatings’ bid to overturn his Challenge Cup sending off.

This was always going to be a close encounter. Only a point separates the sides in fifth and sixth place and although a win would have seen the Easter Road side reverse the standings, they had not beaten Gary Holt’s men in their two meetings this term, battling back from a two-goal deficit early in the campaign to scrape a draw and then succumbing to defeat in West Lothian over the festive period.

But Hibs have been in more formidable form, hence their progress in cup and league. Only one defeat this year has given them confidence and they were on the lookout for a fourth successive win. Against a side whose greatest strength is their home form and who have failed to score on their past three away days, there was greater expectation in the stands.

The 22nd minute opportunity was a costly miss. Martin Boyle had advanced up the right and, cutting in, he tried to whip the ball into the danger zone but Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, inset, got in the way, blocked with his arm, and the referee quickly pointed to the spot.

Marc McNulty had squandered his recent chance against Ross County so it was Allan who stepped up but his effort lacked conviction and Livi keeper Robby McCrorie dived down to his right to push it away.

With little to separate the sides, Hibs had marginally more of an upper hand in general play but Livingston were not exactly swamped as neither side lived up to their best form and the game fell short of the firecracker many had anticipated. Marc McNulty tried to curl one to the far corner a couple of minutes later, while Steve Lawless and Stevie Lawson came closest for the visitors.

But the home side started the second half well, and in the 50th minute Christian Doidge showed what a bit of belief can do for a striker, making the perfect run, and providing the deftest of touches to flick a Greg Docherty cross into the net. It was his 17th goal of the season and looked to have given his side a platform to push on. But Livingston had other ideas and reacted quickly to square things up within five minutes and it was Taylor-Sinclair who timed his run into the area and directed a Lawless delivery beyond Ofir Marciano.

“It was a frustrating afternoon for us, not because it’s a draw but because of the way the draw came around: having given ourselves a chance to go ahead in the game that we didn’t take, and then going ahead and being pegged back,” said Ross.

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“I don’t think we were great but I still think we dominated most of the ball and most of the territory and when you add that in it’s frustrating we don’t take more from the game.

“But not so long ago we were talking about earning points to get us out of trouble, now it’s about earning points because we want to finish third. That’s the positive sign.”

On a day when neither side could profit from Motherwell and Aberdeen dropping points, there was no real negativity or ifs, buts and maybes from either manager.

“I am buzzing,” said Livingston boss Gary Holt. “To go a goal behind and show the character and desire to come back speaks volumes for the boys. We could have got over-run at times, especially when you go a goal behind because they get a lift but we stuck to our game plan and second half we had some really good chances.

“All we can do is focus on ourselves, and our aim was to come here and win the game, and if you can’t win it then don’t get beat.”