Hibs 2 - 2 Ross County: Fans fume but Paul Heckingbottom is defiant as Hibees let two-goal lead slip

Keep the Faith played over the PA system as the disgruntled Hibernian fans filtered out of the ground. But with the side still looking for a second league win of the campaign, it is proving a bigger and bigger ask.

Ross County came from two behind to draw with Hibs. Picture: SNS
Ross County came from two behind to draw with Hibs. Picture: SNS

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The Easter Road side – who last tasted victory in the Premiership on the opening day of the season against St Mirren – have now thrown away 13 points from leading positions and the knowledge that they could be sitting in third place rather than second bottom had they shown greater desire and game management has done little to dispel the growing angst.

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This was the fifth league match in a row in which Hibs have contrived to squander a lead. It started last month in the derby against Hearts when they ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.

Hibs dropped points from a winning position once more. Picture: SNS

While the 1-1 draws at home to Celtic and away at Aberdeen that followed were seen as decent results, despite being clawed back in both matches, the 1-1 draw against Hamilton last weekend after taking a first-half lead was not considered so acceptable.

Their failure yet again to hold on to a lead here – and a 2-0 lead at that – suggests a return to the bad old days when people questioned the heart and steel of Hibs teams. But, despite more booing and more calls for Paul Heckingbottom to go, the under-fire Easter Road manager says he is determined to hang about and fight to turn things around.

Asked if he had thought about chucking it, he said: “I can’t demand more from the players and then give less myself, can I? No, absolutely not. We have to fight, we have to stand up.”

But he admitted to a feeling of helplessness as his men succumbed to a more direct approach from County late in the game and their own anxieties. “At least I can change my tune a bit and moan about a missed chance and giving away a fantastic position. I’ve had frustrations at decisions that have cost us before but that was just us!

“We’re two up and their first goal changes it, then it goes to 2-2 suddenly. For me that shows it’s a mental approach to the game that costs us.”

Hibs looked like they had secured that elusive win when two goals early in the second half left Ross County wobbling.

The first came in the 49th minute as second-half substitute Daryl Horgan made an almost immediate impact. Showing energy and conviction as he latched on to a lovely ball over the top from Jason Naismith, he cut in from the right at pace and drilled the ball low beyond Ross Laidlaw.

County were even more culpable when they backed off Scott Allan as he moved along the 18-yard line and allowed him to slam a shot inside the post from a central position.

But there was no killer instinct and having passed up chances to bury their guests, rattling the woodwork and failing to find the net from distance and close range, instead they offered County hope and the Highland side repaid them when former Hibs striker Brian Graham produced a wonderful strike to reduce the deficit in the 74th minute and then Joe Chalmers pounced in the dying seconds to step on to a loose ball and send a left-foot shot past Chris Maxwell from distance.

It was the misfiring Hibs’ fifth Premiership draw of the season and a sickener for the home fans. But it could have been even worse as Graham missed a gilt-edged opportunity minutes after his opener, sending a header wide from close range.

The spirited comeback was still the perfect confidence boost for Ross County in the wake of their 6-0 mauling at the hands of Celtic last weekend and ahead of their midweek meeting with Rangers.

“It would have been very easy for our players to down tools and feel sorry for themselves,” said Stevie Ferguson. “But at 2-0 we were very clear that the next goal was going to be the important one. If Hibs got it, game over but if we could get it, we knew it might put Hibs under pressure and make them feel edgy.

“In the circumstances it feels more like three points than a draw and the players deserve a lot of credit.”