Heartbreak in Highlands for Hibs - how they rated

Le Fondre thought he was match winner ... Dhanda had other ideas

What is it they call substitutes these days? Finishers? A description worthy of both Hibs replacement Adam Le Fondre AND Ross County’s Yan Dhanda, on a dramatic night in the Highlands.

Just when it seemed as if Le Fondre had dragged Hibs back from the brink to secure a vital victory over County in Dingwall, Dhanda struck – in the ninth of seven minutes added on – to break the hearts of the visitors. The 2-2 draw sees Nick Montgomery’s men drop into the bottom six, with Dundee’s win over Aberdeen adding real damage to the feeling of depression.

One down and struggling after a rare David Marshall misjudgement had gifted Josh Sims an opener, the half-time introduction of Le Fondre turned this game on its head, his energy intent prompting a fightback as Myziane Maolida bagged an equaliser.  And the veteran forward bagged a winner – or so everyone thought - inside the closing quarter hour, ghosting into the box to connect with a superb delivery from captain Joe Newell.

Yet, deep into time added on, Dhanda popped up – after a disputed throw-in – to send the home fans wild with relief and delight. This was a sore one for Hibs, a little understrength and out of sorts. A painful contest and a damaging result.

With Martin Boyle concussed, Nathan Moriah-Welsh suspended and Chris Cadden in need of a rest after playing his first full 90 minutes of football since the end of last season just a few days earlier, Elie Youan, Dylan Levitt and Lewis Miller all returned to a Hibs starting XI that saw Emi Marcondes continue as stand-in centre forward in place of the injured Dylan Vente. For most of the first half, they played with all the guile and fluency of mediocre mid-table scufflers.

Cadden being forced back into service late in the half, Miller limping off in distress, did threaten to inject a bit of energy into the Hibs team. Within moments of his introduction, Will Fish had pulled a shot just wide and Myziane Maolida – played in by a beautiful flick of the boot from Levitt – had forced County keeper George Wickens into a full-length save. Slowly, the visitors were showing gradual signs of improvement.

All of that was undone when  Simon Murray’s deep delivery from the wing caused unnecessary chaos in the Hibs box, Sims the grateful beneficiary as Marshall flapped at the ball. Montgomery had to make a change. And, at the interval, he did just that.

The introduction of Le Fondre, Levitt making way so Marcondes could drop into a more comfortable role in the No. 10 position, definitely added wit and a dash of devilment to the Hibs attack. They were rewarded with a quick equaliser, Maolida drifting from his starting position on the left wing to pop up in the inside right position, running onto a superb Youan through ball and finishing for his fifth goal since arriving in January.

And, when Newell looked up from a position to the left of centre midway inside the Couty half, his eyes would have lit up to see Le Fondre ghosting in on the wrong side of his marker. In went the ball, up popped the striker – and wild were the celebrations of the small band of travelling supporters who had made the long trip north.

They thought their team had done enough. They were wrong. What a weary drive home.

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