Hibee History: Latapy makes Arabs pay the penalty for indiscipline
Dundee United were left seething after a controversial penalty award deep into stoppage time allowed Russell Latapy to give Hibs victory at Easter Road.
Hibs’ German midfielder Mathias Jack first enraged the visitors by not throwing the ball back to them after an injury to Jim Lauchlan.
Then referee Alan Freeland gave a spot kick when Craig Easton appeared to step on Jack’s heel inside the box.
It was heartbreaking for the side battling to escape from the bottom, although the home side just about deserved their victory.
Hibs had only taken one point from a possible six over the Christmas period.
But postponements elsewhere meant that they had the chance to narrow the gap between themselves and leaders Celtic and pull three points clear of Rangers.
They welcomed midfielder John O’Neil back from suspension and he replaced Lyndon Andrews in the only change from the side that drew away to Hearts on Boxing Day.
The bottom-of-the-table visitors knew that a victory would narrow their gap with St Mirren to two points.
Manager Alex Smith made three changes from the side that lost to Celtic on Tuesday.
Jim Lauchlan, Derek Lilley and Jamie McCunnie, a teenager making his debut, came in for John McQuillan, Jim Hamilton and Jamie Buchan.
Hibs got their passing game going quickly despite the slippery conditions.
But United’s resolute defence was equal to the challenge with some desperate, last-minute challenges.
Defender Jason De Vos got United’s first effort on target from a corner just before the break. But his header was easily kicked off the line by Stuart Lovell.
United again came close after an excellent run and cross from David Partridge.
Steve Thompson could only direct his header across the six yard box and fellow striker Derek Lilley sliced wide under pressure from Paul Fenwick.
Nick Colgan then had to make an excellent, one-handed stop from a low Thompson drive as United threatened to claim a surprise victory.
Hibs responded and Mixu Paatelainen’s looping header drifted just wide.
Goalkeeper Alan Combe did well to beat away a powerful David Zitelli header unleashed from seven yards then saved at Latapy’s feet.
Hibs substitute Tom McManus fluffed his shot when set up in front of goal.
Midfielder Charlie Miller missed a similar chance at the other end.
But the home side eventually got their reward in that bizarre finale, with Latapy sending Combe the wrong way from the spot.
Hibs: Colgan, Lovell, Fenwick, Sauzee, Gary Smith, Laursen, Jack, O’Neil, Latapy, Zitelli, Paatelainen. Subs: Franks, Andrews, Lehmann, Murray, McManus
Dundee Utd: Combe, McCunnie, Lauchlan, De Vos, Partridge, Easton, Miller, Griffin, Aljofree, Thompson, Lilley. Subs: Gallacher, McCracken, Davidson, Hamilton, Winters
Referee: A Freeland