A stunning strike from Willo Flood just four minutes from time inflicted only a second defeat in ten matches for Terry Butcher’s Hibs as Aberdeen’s habit of claiming late, late winners saw them tighten their grip on second place in the Scottish Premiership.
It was a cruel blow for the Easter Road outfit, who looked as if they were set for a precious point at Pittodrie against the team Butcher himself has tipped to end the season runners-up to Celtic.
Although Flood’s strike settled an entertaining match, the Dons would no doubt have been raging had he not scored, referee Craig Thomson and his assistant Stuart Stevenson somehow missing a stonewall penalty claim for the home side when Peter Pawlett’s first-half cross clearly came off the outstretched arm of Hibs defender Michael Nelson.
Butcher made no changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Dundee United on Sunday, while Aberdeen made two changes from their win over Kilmarnock. Loan signing Alan Tate was handed a debut after Michael Hector’s temporary spell at the club had come to an end, while captain Russell Anderson dropped to the bench to be replaced by Joe Shaughnessy.
Tate’s unfamiliarity with his new team-mates almost proved immediately costly, the 31-year-old leaving a through ball believing Jamie Langfield was coming to gather, allowing Heffernan to nip in only for the goalkeeper to get his hand in as the Hibs striker went to ground. There were, predictably, claims for a penalty for the third match in succession for Hibs, but they were muted.
However, Aberdeen, as expected, slowly hauled themselves into the game, Liam Craig, Lewis Stevenson and Michael Nelson all forced to concede corners in quick succession before Hibs enjoyed a huge slice of luck as referee Craig Thomson, so often the cause of anger to fans of the Capital club, failing to spot Nelson’s right arm blocking Peter Pawlett’s cross from Flood’s astute pass into the penalty area.
As the hour mark came and went it remained a game which was finely poised, increasingly taking on the appearance of a match which could well be settled by a single goal. And so it proved with just five minutes remained when Flood picked up a clearance from Jordon Forster and curled a shot from outside the box beyond a helpless Williams.