Hibs end losing ways at Celtic but it remains a no-win situation for Jack Ross’ men

This was always a no-win game for Hibs. Even if David Turnbull hadn’t stepped up and sent his sublime free-kick into the top corner with 10 minutes remaining.

Kevin Nisbet celebrates his late equaliser for Hibs during the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Hibernian at Celtic Park. Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group
Kevin Nisbet celebrates his late equaliser for Hibs during the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Hibernian at Celtic Park. Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group

But grabbing a late draw was at least payback for the same cruel fate inflicted on them by the defending champions the last time they met, at Easter Road.

There was no surprise that it was top scorer Kevin Nisbet who slammed it home after Stevie Mallan swung in stoppage time free-kick which Celtic couldn’t clear, giving the 23-year-old the kind of opportunity he rarely passes up.

It is not often that Hibs travel to Celtic Park with the burden of expectation on their shoulders but such were the crazy circumstances surrounding this meeting, the onus was on them to deliver. Had they done that, it is unlikely they would have been lauded due to the Celtic line-up. But, losing was always going to be viewed on a sliding scale of simply Hibsing it to a major catastrophe by their own fans let alone those with noses pressed against the window.

Up against a home side, blighted by their own poor judgement, and a positive covid test that saw 16 players and staff self-isolating, including Parkhead manager and former Hibs boss Neil Lennon, the Leith outfit arrived in Glasgow harbouring reservations, according to an angry statement issued by the club, and a need to capitalise on the reduced number of first team regulars in the opposition line up.

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Already annoyed that the game had been pushed back to the Monday to accommodate Celtic’s warm weather training trip to Dubai, their ire was piqued further by the news of Christopher Jullien’s positive covid test and the uncertainty about the game and whether it would still go ahead.

As the majority of Scottish football was shut down, Hibs asked for extra testing for the Celtic players who would step into the breach. The fact that their rivals refused only fuelled the sense of injustice.

With players’ families concerned by the threat to their health, Hibs were informed that there would be serious consquences for failing to fulfil the fixture.

It should have given them all the incentive they needed to head out and punish their hosts.

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Having spent the week in snoods and hats, training on icy pitches while Celtic lapped up the sunshine and sand and sipped on cold beers by the pool, it maybe wasn’t too surprising that Jack Ross’ men struggled to turn up the heat.

The tempo of the play was not great but having probably spent the week preparing to combat a certain style of Celtic play, the early part of the game saw them feeling their way into it. But new keeper Matt Macey was not under any real pressure.

Minus Martin Boyle, who had picked up an injury, Hibs did have possession without really threatening.

Instead, they allowed Celtic to settle and with quality like David Turnbull and Calum McGregor they began to ask a few questions. It was a tough evening for young Josh Doig and he was replaced by Lewis Stevenson, who was making his 500th appearance for the club and they sent on Christian Doidge soon after.

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But it was Celtic who got that late goal. Before Nisbet responded.

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