Hibernian 2-2 Dumbarton: Boyle's late goal saves Hibs from shock defeat at Easter Road
Hibs twice came from behind to salvage a point and widen the gap at the top of the Championship table to seven points but nevertheless would have been disappointed at having to settle for a point against Dumbarton.
The visitors had taken a shock lead when Marvin Bartley needlessly fouled Ross McCrorie inches inside the penalty area, former Hearts striker Christian Nade stepping up to score from the spot.
An own goal from Daniel Harvie put Hibs level but Robert Thomson fired Dumbarton ahead only for Hibs striker James Keatings to see his penalty saved before Martin Boyle’s diving header from the edge of the box crept over the line to earn the Capital club a point.
Dumbarton, unsurprisingly, adopted the favourite tactic of sides visiting Easter Road, getting everyone behind the ball to frustrate Neil Lennon’s players, a ploy which worked well for the opening half-hour as Hibs toiled to engineer an opening.
The closest they came was when Keatings whipped in a low cross which was missed by both McGinn and Grant Holt before the striker supplied another inviting cross, this time headed back across by Efe Ambrose for Holt who couldn’t find enough loft to take the ball over the head of Dumbarton goalkeeper Alan Martin.
Hibs, without the suspended Jason Cummings and Fraser Fyvie, continued to keep Dumbarton pinned in, Andrew Shinnie cutting in from the left to fire in a shot which was always rising over Martin’s bar.
Dumbarton were obviously hoping to catch Hibs on the break as they committed players forward but other than a second minute chance for Andy Stirling which he blasted well wide of target, little had been seen of them as an attacking force as borne out by the fact the Edinburgh side had enjoyed 69 per cent of possession in the first half.
But Dumbarton made a mockery of that decision by taking the lead in the 38th minute, Bartley challenged McCrorie from behind on the left edge of Hibs penalty area and referee Gavin Duncan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Nade stepping up to beat goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and give the visitors a shock lead.
The goal was exactly what Dumbarton wanted, something to hold onto with Hibs having struggled all season to overcome opponents determined to ‘park the bus’ although Lennon’s players needed to show greater urgency than they had in the opening 45 minutes.
Hibs were badly needing a goal to get themselves back into it and it almost came three minutes after the restart, Holt nodding down Ambrose’s long ball forward for Keatings to take it first time, prompting a smart save from Martin who then just managed to push a deflected shot from Shinnie round the post.
But the home side did get the leveller in the 57th minute, Lewis Stevenson playing a great ball down the line to find McGinn’s run, the midfielder delivering a first time cross into the middle where Harvie turned it into his own net.
Hibs, however, were level for only four minutes, Nade’s pass finding Thomson in space to drill a long range shot into the bottom right hand corner of Marciano’s net.
The Capital club had a chance to haul themselves level for a second time when former Hearts defender Darren Barr clearly held Holt, prompting another penalty award from referee Duncan but Martin guessed right, throwing himself full length to his left to push Keatings’ spot kick aside.
Nade was lucky not to be shown the red card for taking a swing at Jordon Forster as the Hibs substitute tried to retrieve the ball from him for throw in, referee Duncan cautioning both players, Dumbarton boss Stevie Aitken immediately spotting the danger by replacing Nade with Garry Fleming.
Hibs did find a second equaliser, Dumbarton goalkeeper Martin dropping the ball at the edge of his area, the alert Boyle diving to head it and then watch it crawl over the line as Brian Graham raced in to blast it into the net.
Hibs: Marciano, Gray (Forster 68), McGregor, Ambrose, Stevenson, Bartley (McGeouch 62), Boyle, McGinn, Shinnie (Graham 77), Keatings, Holt.
Substitutes not used: Laidlaw, Crane, S Martin, F Murray.
Dumbarton: A Martin, Smith, Buchanan, Barr, Harvie, Stirling, Carswell, McCrorie, Thomson, C Gallagher (Vaughan 66), Nade (Fleming 77).
Substitutes not used: Ewings, Lang, Prior.
Referee: Gavin Duncan