Hibernian 1 - 0 Queen of the South: Hibs go level at the top

Liam Henderson and Jordan Marshall challenge for the ball. Picture: TSPL
Liam Henderson and Jordan Marshall challenge for the ball. Picture: TSPL
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A dramatic goal from Dominique Malonga three and a half minutes into added on time sent Hibs level with Rangers at the top of the Championship table.

Although title rivals Rangers had lost at Falkirk earlier in the day it looked as if Hibs were going to fail to capitalise until the substitute met skipper David Gray’s cross to send a downward header into the net to a rapturous response from the home fans.

Alan Stubbs players had scorned early chances, most notably from James Keatings in the first half but their never-say-die attitude was again to the fore as they made it 17 games unbeaten and set up a mouthwatering clash with Rangers at Ibrox a week on Monday.

Hibs made two changes to the side which earned that last-gasp point against Falkirk, Martin Boyle and Liam Henderson starting the match as Paul Hanlon and Malonga dropped to the bench.

John McGinn kept his place, the red card he picked up last week having been rescinded while Lewis Stevenson had recovered from the head knock which forced him out of that game.

The Easter Road side should have taken the lead with ten minutes played, Henderson’s cross from the right picking out James Keatings all alone ten yards out - but in attempting to steer a header into the bottom corner the striker nodded the ball wide.

But Hibs goalkeeper Mark Oxley had to look lively, tipping over a ferocious free-kick from Mark Millar before his opposite number Robbie Thomson got down to stop a low shot from Jason Cummings at his near post.

There was a lucky escape for Queens on the half-hour mark when Chris Higgins misjudged a long ball as Boyle got in behind him but it just wouldn’t come down quickly enough for the Hibs man and under pressure from the defender he could only knock it wide.

Another cross from Henderson again found Keatings, this time at the near post, but he could do no more than prod his shot off target.

There was a definite anxiety around Easter Road as Hibs struggled to get their passing game going, Queens having become decidedly more confident in their approach as the minutes continued to tick away and the game remaining scoreless.

Hibs had loud claims for a penalty turned away as Darren McGregor’s piledriver crashed off the arms of Queens defender Andy Dowie but referee Brian Colvin wasn’t at all interested.

It came as little surprise when Hibs boss Alan Stubbs made a double substitution with 23 minutes remaining, Malonga and Henri Anier replacing Boyle and Cummings respectively.

The introduction of that pair had an almost immediate effect, Anier laying the ball off for Keatings who fed Malonga, his attempt to steer the ball into the top corner of the net finding the head of Queens defender Lewis Kidd with his goalkeeper beaten.

Hibs were beginning to turn the screw, Higgins nodding away a McGregor effort before Henderson’s cross found the head of Liam Fontaine who headed wide.

It had a no-scoring draw written all over it until that moment from Malonga gave the Hibs fans the early Christmas present they had been looking for.

Hibs: Oxley, Gray, McGregor, Fontaine, Stevenson, Fyvie, Henderson, McGinn, Keatings (Feruz 83), Boyle (Malonga 67), Cummings (Anier 67).

Substitutes not used: Reguero, Hanlon, Stanton, Forster.

Queen of the South: Thomson, Kidd, Dowie, Higgins, Marshall, Jacobs, Hutton, Millar, Conroy (Brownlie 87), Lyle (Pickard 81), Russell (A Smith 75)..

Substitutes not used: Atkinson, Rutherford, Moxon, Coogans.

Referee: Brian Colvin

Attendance: 9163.