Hibs 1, Queen of the South 3: Lennon’s men crash out of cup

Queen of the South celebrate Stephen Dobbie's goal at Easter Road
Queen of the South celebrate Stephen Dobbie's goal at Easter Road
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Hibs were sent crashing out of the Betfred Cup at the first time of asking as Queen of the South mounted a storming second-half comeback to leave the Easter Road side shattered.

Neil Lennon’s players had high hopes of again reaching the final of this competition and looked as if they were ready to step into the last eight this time round when Paul Hanlon tapped home from close range after Liam Fontaine had got his foot to James Keatings’ free-kick.

But Grant Holt and Fontaine were both guilty of glaring misses before half-time, paving the way for a remarkable fightback from the Dumfries outfit.

Former Hibs striker Stephen Dobbie came back to haunt his old club with a 66th-minute equaliser before Grant Anderson, who had headed home a Scottish Cup winner for Raith Rovers on this very ground, nodded Queens in front with just eight minutes remaining.

And Lyndon Dykes ensured there was no way back for the Capital side as he took Dobbie’s pass to lash a third past goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw four minutes from the end.

Lennon made just one change to the side which began the season in such promising style at Falkirk, the imposing figure of Martin Bartley restored to midfield in place of youngster Scott Martin.

With new signing Ofir Marciano still awaiting the work permit to allow him to conclude his season-long deal from Israeli side Ashdod, Laidlaw continued in goal for Hibs.

Queens boss Gavin Skelton was forced into making two changes having lost defenders Chris Higgins and Jordan Marshall to injury following the Palmerston Park outfit’s creditable draw away to Dundee United at the weekend, Darren Brownlie and Scott Hooper drafted in to form new back four.

The opening ten minutes did little to excite anyone other than Jim Thomson, referee Euan Anderson making his way over to have a word with the Queens’ coach, presumably on the advice of his assistant Dougie Potter, after getting a wee bit hot under the collar but for what only he could say.

Hibs had, though, enjoyed the bulk of the early possession and tested Lee Robinson for the first time through Keatings, the striker playing in that hole behind the front two, drilling in a low free-kick from 32 yards which skipped off the turf in front of the Queens goalkeeper, who did well to hold on at his left-hand post.

Hibs capitalised on their superiority by taking the lead in the 22nd minute, Keatings, who has been charged with delivering his side’s free-kicks, whipping in a beauty from the left which found the outstretched boot of Fontaine.

He guided the ball towards the far post where fellow defender Hanlon was waiting unmarked to tap home from barely a foot out.

Holt should have made it two three minutes later, Jason Cummings picking him out but the veteran striker unable to apply the finishing touch with the goal at his mercy before Bartley charged forward, checked his run and fed the ball inside for Keatings, who couldn’t quite get enough power on his shot to cause Robinson problems.

Little had been seen of the Dumfries outfit in an attacking sense but there was a moment of worry when Anderson sent in a cross between Fontaine and Laidlaw, who left it for each other although they managed to escape unpunished.

At the other end, Holt used Cummings’ run as a decoy, reversing his pass into the path of Keatings, who got plenty of power behind his shot but Robinson did well to beat the ball to safety.

Keatings’ delivery was again spot-on after former Hearts defender Jamie Hamill, switched from right to left back to counter David Gray’s forward runs, had illegally ended another surge from the Hibs skipper, leaving Fontaine with the easiest of tasks to nod it home – but somehow he contrived to send the ball wide from only a few yards out.

Seconds later, it was Keatings again, this time his free-kick whistling just wide with Robinson struggling to get across his line in time. Lennon, though, would have been disappointed that his players weren’t heading up the tunnel at half-time with a far more comfortable lead.

Queens were forced into a change within two minutes of the restart, former Hibs striker Dobbie, back at Palmerston Park for a second spell, taking over from the limping Dale Hilson.

As long as Hibs remained just that single goal ahead, Skelton’s men were far from out of it, as Derek Lyle reminded the home side with a shot which flew wide of the target before Dykes called on Laidlaw to make his first telling contribution with a powerful effort which the goalkeeper clutched confidently.

Hibs responded with Lewis Stevenson showing a clever turn to bring an acrobatic save from Robinson, the ball falling for Keating,s who dispatched a curling effort which looked destined for the top corner of the net only for the goalkeeper to fingertip it over the bar.

But Queens hauled themselves level, perhaps inevitably, through Dobbie, who showed that while the years may be advancing he hasn’t lost that predatory instinct he displayed during his time as a youngster at Easter Road, timing his run perfectly to get on the end of Dean Brotherston’s cross after his fellow substitute had been set free on the left by Dykes’ superb crossfield pass.

Hibs had become a bit ragged, lacking the composure of a Dylan McGeouch or a Fraser Fyvie in the middle of the park, as their visitors drew confidence from that goal although Keatings did his best to turn the match back in his side’s favour, dropping off to find a yard of space to fire in a dipping drive which Robinson watched all the way.

Holt headed a Keatings corner over as his last act, making way for Martin Boyle but before that change had the desired effect, Queens took the lead with only eight minutes remaining, Grant rising to beat his former Raith Rovers team-mate Laidlaw to another Brotherston cross from the left to head into the far corner of the net.

And Dykes put the match beyond Hibs four minutes later, Dobbie’s pass leaving him in space to crack a right-foot shot past the helpless Laidlaw.

There was little doubt Lennon’s players had paid for their first-half profligacy with their visitors ultimately well deserving of a victory which will have made other Championship sides sit up and take notice that the title favourites are far from infallible.

Hibs: (3-4-1-2): Laidlaw; McGregor (Harris 85), Hanlon, Fontaine, Gray, Bartley, McGinn, Stevenson; Keatings; Cummings (Forster 89), Holt (Boyle 80). Unused subs: Virtanen, Stanton, Martin, Carmichael.

Queen of the South: (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Hamill (Brotherston 64), Brownlie, Dowie, Hooper; Anderson, Millar, Jacobs, Dykes; Hilson (Dobbie 48); Lyle (Rigg 80). Unused subs: Pickard, Moxon, Thomson, Tapping.

Referee: Euan Anderson