Hibs boss reflects on two dropped points

Christian Nade inflicted what felt like a loss to Hibs, equalising in time added on to snatch a draw. Picture: Toby Williams. Alan Stubbs below
Christian Nade inflicted what felt like a loss to Hibs, equalising in time added on to snatch a draw. Picture: Toby Williams. Alan Stubbs below
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Sixty five per cent possession; 25 shots on goal; nine corners to three. The simple statistics suggest there should have been only one outcome to this match and that today Hibs should be sitting between Hearts and Rangers in the Championship table.

However, instead of overhauling the Ibrox side with the chance to further turn up the heat on the troubled Glasgow club on their visit to Govan a week on Friday, Alan Stubbs’ men sit a point adrift with their rivals for that second place finish now enjoying three games in hand, albeit one of them is against the league leaders.

Not for the first time this season the Easter Road club found themselves going into added on time with their noses in front and, yet, unable to hang onto that advantage. Think of Alim Ozturk’s thundering equaliser in the second derby; David McCracken’s late, late winner at Falkirk and, now, Christian Nade’s last-gasp leveller for Raith Rovers.

Five points gone in those three games alone – and that’s before you factor in matches in which Hibs have been unable to hammer home their superiority, particularly at home where they’ve drawn six – or exactly half – of their fixtures.

Results such as this latest one have proved costly, hopes of taking the title and assuring immediate promotion to the Premiership gone. Of course the play-off system offers another route back although, as everyone recognises, that task becomes slightly less problematic the higher you finish, with a reduction in the number of games to be played.

However, other than express his disappointment at the final outcome, Stubbs found it hard to criticise his players, the head coach more than happy with their performance while conceding they’d created enough chances to win three and possibly four games.

And while many would point to his side’s profligacy in front of goal, Stubbs insisted Raith goalkeeper David McGurn should take some measure of credit for the number of saves he made to prevent Hibs running away with the game before it was barely halfway through.

Yes, McGurn got himself in the way of a number of shots, most notably from Martin Boyle and Jason Cummings, and yet you couldn’t help but feel had the Capital side been more clinical when presented with such chances the goalkeeper would have found himself picking the ball out of his net three or four times. Hibs also struck the woodwork twice, Cummings beating McGurn but not the post before Boyle saw a close-range effort after McGurn couldn’t hold his team-mate’s shot deflected onto the bar.

McGurn tipped over a raging effort from Liam Craig, who’d failed to direct a couple of first-half headers on target and Boyle saw the offside flag raised as he nodded home the rebound after the goalkeeper could only beat away another shot from his skipper.

However, it took Hibs only a minute of the second half to get themselves in front, Dylan McGeouch playing a superb pass to leave Boyle in acres of space and only McGurn to beat. He didn’t waste the opportunity this time, calmly sliding the ball into the far corner of the net.

Raith had made their intentions clear from the off, getting everyone bar Nade behind the ball during those long spells of possession which Hibs enjoyed. The home players, prompted by McGeouch and Scott Allan, knocked the ball around with some style as they prodded and probed for those openings in a packed defence.

But they could not find a secon and, in the ned, on-loan Hearts kid Dale Carrick forced Lewis Stevenson to concede a corner from which ex-Tynecastle hitman Nade managed to engineer enough space to nod Ryan Conroy’s cross into the bottom corner of the net from a few yards out.

“It felt like a loss at the end of the day,” admitted Boyle, “It was pretty devastating after dominating the game. I have to put my hand up, I should have bagged a few. It was one of those games where you dominate completely, they get one chance and nick it. It was a massive two points dropped.

“But we have to pick ourselves up, we play Rangers in our next league game and hopefully we can overtake them then. I thought it was a brilliant team performance but if you don’t kill teams off then they’ll come back to haunt you.

“From a personal point of view I’m delighted to get off the mark and hopefully I can get more for the team.”

Nade, on the other hand, was naturally elated at salvaging a point for his side saying: “I just knew I was going to score, I just had to be patient.

“Hibs were the better team throughout the game. They had so many chances so I want to congratulate our goalkeeper, our defenders, our midfield. Their work-rate was unbelievable. We’ve drawn when we should have lost, but that’s football. If I hadn’t scored I would maybe have been the worst player on the pitch – but I scored and I am the hero.”

Although boos of frustration rang around Easter Road on the final whistle, Stubbs insisted he wasn’t going to have a go at his players, reasoning: “I think if we had won this game by the same scoreline as Cowdenbeath [5-0] then no-one could have said we did not deserve it.

“On another day we win the game comfortably, unfortunately whether it’s through poor finishing, their goalkeeper making good saves or getting something on it we didn’t.

“You have to give him quite a bit of credit. To purely say it was bad finishing would be very harsh on him. Whether we have hit him or not he has still got his body in the way, he has still judged to go the right way.

“I was delighted with our performance, no-one is going to come here and lie down. We have dominated possession, God knows what the stats are going to say, how many chances we have had or created – but the most important stat is that we drew the game.”

And Stubbs brushed off any suggestion of feeling frustrated at having not overtaken Rangers. He said: “My thought process was not about going ahead of Rangers, it was about winning the game because I know how difficult football is. No-one gives you owt for nowt, you have to earn it. On Saturday we earned it, but we never took it.”