TWO second half goals from Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic consigned new Hibs boss Pat Fenlon to defeat in his first match at Easter Road.
The Croat struck with a 59th minute penalty and added a header nine minutes later to keep the Ibrox club on course for a fourth SPL title but Hibs were left to rue what might have been had Leigh Griffiths not spurned a gilt-edged chance to fire them ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Unsurprisingly Hibs boss Pat Fenlon stuck by the starting 11 which had showed a degree of promise against Motherwell before that electrical fault at Fir Park brought the game to a premature end while Rangers were without Sone Aluko, banned for two matches after being deemed guilty of diving for the penalty which earned the Ibrox outfit victory over Dunfermline last weekend.
The first half, though, was almost totally devoid of goalmouth action, both sides opting to play with just one striker, Garry O’Connor fulfilling that thankless task for Hibs while Jelavic did likewise for Rangers.
Other than a Steve Davis effort which flew wide as did a Lewis Stevenson shot, there was little to excite the fans, But on the stroke of half-time Griffiths passed up a glorious chance to put Hibs ahead. For the first time in the match Ivan Sproule got himself to the bye-line before cutting the ball back into the danger area. Somehow Rangers defender Lee Wallace totally missed his kick, leaving the ball to run onto Griffiths’ favoured left foot.
Surprise could be the only explanation for the on-loan Wolves star scuffing a low shot into the arms of goalkeeper Allan McGregor rather than the back of the net.
Hibs were made to pay when Michael Hart was ajudged to have laid an arm on former Hearts defender Wallace, referee Iain Brines having no hesitation in immediately pointing to the spot. Jelavic stepped up to send goalkeeper Graham Stack the wrong way.
Hibs themselves had seen shouts for a penalty turned down seconds earlier, Sproule claiming the ball had come off the arm of Steven Whittaker as he attempted to pass his former team-mate but Brines was having none of it.
Jelavic put the game beyond Hibs when he rose to nod home Gregg Wylde’s corner although McGregor did well to claw away a deflected Paul Hanlon cross to deny the home side a way back.
Hibs: Stack, Hart (Galbraith 70), O’Hanlon, Stephens, Hanlon, Griffiths (Caldwell 86), Wotherspoon, Osbourne, Stevenson, Sproule, O’Connor (Sodje 86). Subs not used: Brown, Scott, Palsson, Towell.
Rangers: McGregor, Whittaker, Goian, Bocanegra, Wallace, Davis, Edu (Ortiz 86), Bartley (Bendiksen 56), McCulloch, Jelavic, Wylde. Subs not used: Alexander, Broadfoot, Healy, McKay, Perry.