Hibs 3 Motherwell 3: Sutton’s late equaliser

Lewis Stevenson challenges for the ball. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Lewis Stevenson challenges for the ball. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Hibs top six dream continues to flicker after Terry Butcher’s side had victory snatched from them by an injury time equaliser from Motherwell’s John Sutton.

The Capital club looked to have the three points secured after they’d staged an incredible comeback, looking as if they were heading for certain defeat after Sutton and Lionel Ainsworth had fired the Lanarkshire team into a two goal lead inside the opening half-hour.

But Jordon Forster threw them a lifeline three minutes before the interval and then Michael Nelson and substitute Paul Heffernan struck to fire them ahead with only 11 minutes remaining.

However, as the game moved into added on time an Ian Vigur’s cross caused mayhem, goalkeeper Ben Williams and Ryan McGivern both bringing off goal-line clearances before Sutton threw himself at the loose ball to claim a point

Now Hibs sit two points behind St Johnstone, the Perth club having a game in hand, and making their visit to McDiarmid Park in a fortnight’s time a vital fixture.

Butcher made two changes to the side which crashed to Dundee United eight days ago. One was enforced with Tom Taiwo suspended thanks to the red card he picked up in that match while Alex Harris dropped to the bench, moves which paved the way for Paul Cairney and James Collins to make the starting line-up.

Hibs found themselves behind after only 12 minutes as the Fir Park outfit ripped through their defence, Stephen McManus playing a clever ball out wide for James McFadden who delivered it into the path of Ainsworth to drill it low across the face of Ben Williams goal for Sutton to turn it in from inside the six yard box.

The goal brought the shrill shriek of whistles from the travelling support, their response to having their drummer banned from Easter Road.

Butcher’s side had made a reasonable start to the match but that goal knocked them out of their stride as they toiled once again to bring much cohesion to their game, Danny Haynes turning on a cross from Cairney only to sky the ball high over the bar.

Even finding a team-mate in a green and white shirt was proving difficult for Hibs and they fell further behind in the 29th minute to another superb goal. Again McManus was the instigator, sliding the ball into the middle of the park for Keith Lasley who spotted Ainsworth’s run and supplied the perfect pass leaving him to easily beat Michael Nelson before curling a wonderful shot beyond Williams.

Unsurprisingly the boos began to echo around Easter Road long before half-time, the home support clearly unhappy at what they were seeing yet again, Butcher’s players looking disjointed in stark contrast to their visitors who no doubt felt there were more goals in this game for them.

So Stuart McCall’s side were no doubt stunned when Forster rose to power a header beyond Lee Hollis from Cairney’s cross three minutes from the interval and, incredibly, Hibs might have hauled themselves level 60 seconds later, the Motherwell goalkeeper managing to get down and turn Collins’ low shot round the post.

Astonishingly Hibs carved out another chance before they headed up the tunnel but on this occasion Forster, left with a free header from Liam Craig’s corner, couldn’t get the ball on target.

Hibs’ spirits, though, had clearly been lifted and Hollis had his right post to thank for keeping Motherwell ahead as Collins’ flick from Ryan McGivern cross had him beaten, the Hibs striker unable to get enough on the rebound to beat the goalkeeper.

Haynes blazed over from a good position and so, too, did McFadden as the game began to stretch, the danger for Hibs being that as they chased that equaliser they’d find themselves short-handed at the back.

But, finally, the Capital club got the break they were looking for 15 minutes from time, Nelson rising beyond the back post to meet Cairney’s header, the farside assistant Douglas Ross ruling the ball had crossed the line before Motherwell managed to boot it to safety. Hibs completed an astonishing comeback when substitute Heffernan lashed home a third in the 79th minute, after Cairney had spotted his run into the Motherwell penalty area.

But they were left distraught as Sutton struck with that last-gasp equaliser.

Hibs: Williams, Forster, Nelson, Hanlon, McGivern, Cairney (Handling 84), Stanton, Craig, Stevenson (Harris 66), Collins, Haynes (Heffernan 75).

Substitutes not used: Murdoch, Boateng, Maybury, Cummings.

Motherwell: Hollis, Reid, Hutchinson, McManus, Murray, Ainsworth (Moore 70), Vigurs, Lasley, Leitch, McFadden (Cadden 74), Sutton.

Substitutes not used: Stewart, Hammell, Shirkie, Thomas, Neil.

Referee: Steven McLean.