There must be a bogey somewhere emblazoned with the name ‘Hibernian’ that is up on bricks right now. For the wheels have well and truly come off for Alan Stubbs’ men after last night’s loss to Queen of the South condemned them to a third straight defeat.
Scorers: Queen of the South – Murdoch (78)
The context for such a form collapse is no longer a Championship challenge. Rangers are hardly visible through now boasting a 14-point advantage with nine games remaining, it is avoiding third place in the second tier with the lead the Leith club now hold over Falkirk reduced to one point.
The tin lid for Hibs at Palmerston was that it was a Rangers player that allowed Queens to scalp them as Morton and Dumbarton had in the ultimate week from hell. The home side had not seriously threatened before on-loan Ibrox midfielder Andy Murdoch, an early second half substitute, produced a screamer of an angled drive to leave Mark Oxley helpless. It seems a common theme around the Leith club, with Anthony Stokes having a goalbound effort blocked by defender Chris Higgins shortly before.
There were few form pointers pre-match because neither side had any to speak of. Queens, like Hibs, were in the position of having to reassess their place in the Championship following back-to-back losses. James Fowler’s side were in a desperate hunt for points to prevent Raith Rovers and Morton eclipsing them in the hunt for fourth place and the final play-off slot.
Two teams that could only be feeling a little low about themselves beforehand wouldn’t have had their spirits lifted across a truly turgid opening period. Stubbs, while accentuating the positives over a run that had brought only one defeat in 28 games before their double-dunt of defeats, did hint at a recent glut of fixtures having taken a toll. Battling on three fronts was a stress to be celebrated, though, he made sure to point out: a Scottish Cup quarter-final at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, the warm-up to the League Cup final against Ross County the following weekend.
It has become a must to speculate just how much the cup final might have – unwittingly – diluted the Leith club’s league focus. They were certain driven in the early stages at Dumfries but just seemed to all too often steer in the wrong direction. The home side carried nothing in the way of a threat but aside from a couple of half-hearted efforts from Jason Cummings and Anthony Stokes neither did Hibs until seconds before the interval.
At that point, John McGinn produced a sleek turn to create space for himself before ramming in a low effort from the edge of the area that keeper Robbie Thomson reacting sharply to push out at full stretch.
The man whose input was more notable in the opening 45 was referee Andrew Dallas. He flashed yellow twice after a matter of only six minutes when Jake Pickard cemented McGinn and Marvin Bartley eyeballed him in anger over the treatment of his Hibs team-mate. Dallas then decreed, what appeared rightly, to caution Liam Henderson for simulation after the midfielder appeared to go down after giving thought to whether he should when challenged. The on-loan Celtic teenager seems to be developing a reputation for such dark arts, but last night he also further showed the impressive industry that has been making him a name this season. The name that Hibs were making for themselves, meanwhile, is being rapidly lost.