Hibee History: Liam Craig double eases pressure on Pat Fenlon

Liam Craig netted a double as Hibs defeated Kilmarnock 2-1 at Rugby Park. Pic: SNS
Liam Craig netted a double as Hibs defeated Kilmarnock 2-1 at Rugby Park. Pic: SNS
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Liam Craig’s double secured Hibernian’s first win in the Scottish Premiership to ease some of the pressure on under-fire manager Pat Fenlon.

The Easter Road side came from behind to leave Allan Johnston still looking for his first victory as Kilmarnock manager.

Barry Nicholson’s stunning first Killie goal gave the hosts a first-half lead which they deserved.

However, Craig headed Hibs level before firing the winner as the match entered its closing stages. He was the hero of the afternoon but the result meant just as much, if not more, to Fenlon.

A vote of confidence for the Irishman and and his players from the Hibs chairman Rod Petrie in midweek appeared to have paid dividends with a win in Ayrshire.

The visitors thought they had taken the lead early on when Rowan Vine had the ball in the net following a sweeping move involving James Collins and Owain Tudur Jones.

Vine swept home but the former St Johnstone striker was flagged offside, much to the disappointment of the travelling support.

Recent signing Nicholson then celebrated his birthday in spectacular style. On the day he turned 35, the former Rangers midfielder showed terrific technique to open the scoring.

He blasted a powerful volley from a similar number of yards to his years into the top left-hand corner.

Kilmarnock then came close to adding a second when Paul Heffernan flicked a Sean Clohessy cross over from the crossbar close range.

Hibs were unbeaten in their five fixtures against Killie in the previous season and expected that trend to continue when they equalised within two minutes of the second half getting underway.

Vine found space on the right to send over a perfect cross for Craig to head down beyond the home goalkeeper Craig Samson.

Kilmarnock pushed forward to try and restore their lead and were unfortunate to see Mark Stewart’s shot turned around the post by the in-form Hibs keeper, Ben Williams.

From the resulting corner, the hosts went close again.

Nicholson’s arcing delivery from the right was laid into the path of Darren Barr by Jackson Irvine, and the big defender’s curling effort flew just wide of target/

Samson then had to be alert to make two saves within the space of two minutes. First, he dived low to his right to turn away a Jones’ strike before clutching a header on the line from former Killie defender Michael Nelson.

But Hibs did take took the lead when Craig netted his second of the afternoon.

It looked as though Barr was favourite to deal with a bouncing ball but he delayed for too long and was punished.

His indecision allowed Craig to nick the ball off his toe and send a lob over the advancing Samson and bouncing into the empty net.

Killie should have equalised in the final minute of stoppage time when substitute Chris Johnston blasted over from ten yards when it had looked easier to score.

The final whistle brought much relief for Hibs and Fenlon as they gathered their first three points of the new campaign.

Kilmarnock: Samson, Tesselaar, Fowler (Johnston 89), Barr, Clohessy, Irvine, Nicholson, Rabiu, O’Hara, Heffernan (Gros 77), Stewart.

Hibs: Williams, McGivern, Hanlon, Nelson, Stevenson, Craig, Tudur-Jones, Handling, Taiwo (Horribine 89), Vine (Stanton 84), Collins (Caldwell 77).