Hibs have taken only six points from the last 30 available to them and are now in ninth place in the Premiership, only two points clear of bottom club Hearts, whom they entertain a week today in an encounter where the losing manager could find himself out of work.
Heckingbottom attributed yesterday’s slump – which was witnessed by new owner Ron Gordon – to a lack of intestinal fortitude and vowed to change the personnel and the approach for the derby at Easter Road; he’ll need to because this level of performance is unlikely to suffice.
“We had five or six shots on target and we got done by a 70-yard pass,” said Heckingbottom. “It was a shocking goal and it changed the complexion. We then got done on the counter when we tried to force things. I could say we did this or that but you get what you deserve.
“We’ve got the best game next and the team I pick will reflect that – stronger, more aggressive, that’s what we need to be. We have to win when we aren’t at our best.”
Hibernian attempted to put the hosts on the back foot from kick-off,with the ball launched towards Killie’s corner flag a la Odsonne Edouard. The tactic seems to work as the visitors set up base camp in the opposing half.
Even so, it took 11 minutes before the first save of the afternoon was recorded, with Laurentiu Branescu touching a dipping Daryl Horgan effort from distance over the bar.
Seven minutes later Stephen Mallan came close with a free-kick from 20 yards (after Gary Dicker had taken out Scott Allan) which was finger-tipped on to the crossbar by Branescu.
That early promise soon fizzled out, however, as Kilmarnock emerged from their shell and began a war of attrition, although it took them until the 40th minute to threaten. Rory McKenzie’s corner picked out on-loan Juventus defender Dario Del Fabro but he contrived to miss the target with a free header from six yards.
Ryan Porteous, on his first start since January due to a knee injury, had had a gentle reintroduction to the Premiership but he and Jason Naismith were posted missing when Kilmarnock drew first blood.
Scotland full-back Stephen O’Donnell was the architect with a perfectly-weighted crossfield pass which released Liam Millar. The Canada winger cut in from the left towards Ofir Marciano’s goal unimpeded and stroked the ball behind the advancing goalkeeper from eight yards.
Forced to chase the game, Hibs left themselves open to counter-attacks and were caught out 11 minutes from the end. A fine passing move involving Eamonn Brophy, McKenzie and Alan Power concluded with Mohamed El Makrini spearing a shot into Marciano’s bottom right-hand corner from 15 yards.