Hibernian 1 - 2 Aberdeen: Dons come from behind to move third

It was enough to take them into third place and was a far more comfortable afternoon that Aberdeen would usually face at Easter Road but the scoreline could have been more emphatic.

Gary Mackay-Steven (centre) celebrates his goal with Stevie May (R) and Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS/Paul Devlin

So far ahead of a managerless Hibernian in the first half, the visitors should have had the game killed off long before the final whistle.

But an improved showing from the Leith side after the break, combined with an inability to cash in on the openings that came their way, left Aberdeen more vulnerable to dropped points than manager Derek McInnes would have liked.

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As his men attempted to chase down Rangers and Kilmarnock, he still claimed it was as comfortable as he has felt in trips to Easter Road, with his side managing to battle back from a ninth minute Oli Shaw strike with goals from Andrew Considine and then Gary Mackay-Steven to leapfrog their Rugby Park rivals and leave them with the chance of overhauling Steven Gerrard’s men as well when they face up on Wednesday.

“These two league games, this one and Rangers, could prove pivotal,” said the Pittodrie manager. “When you play teams in and around you at any stage, but particularly when there is only 14 games to go, the benefit of winning those games is huge, so it’s an opportunity to do a bit of damage. Rangers will see it exactly the same way.”

They mentality of his side will give him confidence, though. Forced to replace both top scorer Sam Cosgrove and goalkeeper Joe Lewis, with the former suffering from a back spasm and the latter paying the price for clattering his head against the post while getting across to cover a Stevie Mallan, his men still had command of proceedings.

Pulling the strings in the first half, setting the tempo and dominating their hosts, they left Hibs to feed off scraps and were well worth their one goal advantage at the break.

When Lewis Ferguson was bundled to the turf by Darren McGregor early in the second half, Gary Mackay Steven should have put the game to bed but Ofir Marciano made a great save to keep Hibs in the hunt.

It served as a pick-me-up for a side currently struggling without a manager, stranded in the bottom six and very obviously low in confidence.

In such circumstances, it was a surprise that many of the same guys who had contributed to the poor first half of the season were chosen to start the match, while the five newcomers, including the trio of transfer deadline day signings were left on the bench.

The home side did take the lead, though, In the eighth minute Shaw played a pass into Mallan on edge of the area and the midfielder hit it on the turn from just outside the box. Enough to sting Lewis’ hands, the keeper still managed to push it away but the away side could not completely clear the danger and Shaw eventually sent a long range angled drive screaming into the net.

The celebratory mood did not last long. “We started the game very well, but we were disappointed to lose the goal three minutes later - it was one that could have been avoided,” admitted Hibs’ stand-in boss Eddie May.

“We have to be fair, Aberdeen have very good quality from middle to front and will always be a danger. They were on the move a couple of times, that’s why they got the shots in and got the goals.”

The equaliser came in the 12th minute as Aberdeen piled on the pressure. A Max Lowe cross into a busy box allowed Cosgrove to stab a close range effort goalwards but that was blocked by Marciano. David Gray then cleared a Tommie Hoban header off the line but, winning the game of head tennis, Andrew Considine finally looped his up over the rearguard and it dipped under the bar.

If that was disappointing fro Hibs, the second goal ten minutes later was embarrassing. Greg Stewart had issued warning with a strike that forced Marciano to make a save but the keeper was left exposed by his defence when the same player thundered another strike in from distance and two Aberdeen players reacted while Hibs were caught ball watching.

Marciano managed to get in the way of May’s effort but with no support, he couldn’t prevent Mackay Steven netting the follow up.

At that stage Aberdeen were cruising and their gaffer said the only thing they were guilty of was not adding to that tally.

James Wilson, who had replaced Cosgrove had several chances but he wasn’t the only one who failed to convert, with Stewart and Mackay Steven also letting Hibs off the hook. But, pushing further upfield, Hibs couldn’t do enough to make them rue those missed efforts. Kamberi sent a header wide, Mallan missed the target with his set piece and Tomas Cerny proved equal to Paul Hanlon’s attempt.

Eventually Gael Bigirimana, Marc McNulty and Ryan Gauld were thrown on but when the game moved into stoppage time it was Aberdeen with another gilt edged opening. Wilson missed it but with three points secured, no one was dwelling on it. Thoughts had already moved on to midweek and the big opportunity they really don’t want to blow.