It probably depends on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty sort of character as to how you view Hibs’ latest result.
Those of a more optimistic persuasion will regard this 1-1 draw as a point gained, a result which takes Neil Lennon’s players that touch closer to Aberdeen, one of their rivals for second place in the Premiership.
If you tend to take a more gloomy look at life then being held by a side battling to haul itself away from the threat of relegation will be seen as an opportunity lost, a real chance for the Capital club to turn up the heat on the two sides in front of them, the Dons and Rangers.
It was, no doubt, a debate which was replicated time and again in the coaches and cars ferrying the travelling support home to Edinburgh although there’s no doubt Oli Shaw’s last-gasp equaliser made that journey feel just that little bit shorter.
Shaw did exactly what was asked of him when he stepped from the bench with Hibs trailing to Billy Mckay’s first-half opener, the 20-year-old, who has enjoyed yet another prolific season in front of goal for the club’s development squad as they chase down a league and cup double but used sparingly at the top level, earning his team the point they undoubtedly deserved.
As welcome as it was, Lewis Stevenson, who has seen and done it all in amassing 400 appearances in the green and white, admitted it still felt like two points dropped while highlighting the fact that although it trimmed the advantage enjoyed by the Dons, it had allowed Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock shock troops to pull themselves closer again to Hibs as so put their current fourth place under threat.
“Ross County defended well,” conceded Stevenson. “But I think we created enough chances to win the game. However, we did not really cut them open, it was more a case of scrambles in the box.
“It was a hard-earned draw, but it would have been a travesty if we had come away with nothing.
“The positive aspect is that with Aberdeen losing we have got a point closer to second but the extra two points would have helped an awful lot with Killie winning. They are not far behind us so it’s going to be an exciting end to the season with plenty still to play for.”
The Staggies were undoubtedly buoyed by the midweek win over Partick Thistle which saw them leapfrog the Jags, if only on goal difference, at the foot of the table thanks to Mckay’s 28th minute goal, the striker recovering from apparently losing the chance when his feet went from under him to knock the ball beyond goalkeeper Ofir Marciano from eight yards out.
It gave County something to hold on to, rank upon rank of dark blue jerseys confronting Lennon’s side as they pinned their hosts down deep within their own half for long spells although, as the Hibs head coach pointed out, they should have been ahead before Mckay struck.
Martin Boyle should have given them the lead within minutes, John McGinn’s glorious cross-field ball giving the winger a free run-in on County’s goal. But he failed to control the ball, leaving those who had made the long journey up the A9 ultimately wondering what might have been had he taken full advantage of that opening.
Stevenson said: “You could see the confidence their win during the week had given them, they defended really well and, I think, scored from their only attack in the first half.”
As the minutes ticked down without Hibs over-troubling County’s goalkeeper Scott Fox, Lennon tinkered and tinkered with his formation and personnel, finally rewarded with that goal just as the match was about to head into added-on time.
He said: “I had to, when you have that much of the ball. We needed some more thrust and in the end we got it. Ultimately it was disappointing not to have won the game, they scored with their first and maybe only attack but I was really pleased with the character and never-say-die attitude of the team.
“Having scored they had something to hang on to but we should have been ahead before then, Boyle was clean through, Flo Kamberi misses a header and then Paul Hanlon had a great chance to equalise before half-time.
“We could have had at least two in the first half and in the second we put them under a lot of pressure on a difficult pitch and got a really deserved goal and a really deserved point although I felt we were unlucky not to win.”
Again, though, Lennon was angered by what he saw as the heavy treatment handed out to his players, in particular midfielder McGinn, returning after a two-match ban, while the coach was back on the touchline for the first time having himself served a three-game suspension. As such he got a close view of County’s Chris Routis clipping McGinn’s heels before Ross Draper, who otherwise had an impressive match as he put the shackles on Scott Allan in the middle of the park, completed the job by scything down the Scotland player.
Both were rightly booked by referee Bobby Madden who was left with no other choice but to wave the yellow card in their direction but Lennon saw those challenges, again, as cynical with no attempt having been made in either to play the ball.
He said: “They had two lashes as John, Routis had a go then Draper has kicked him. They were nowhere near the ball. It’s a malaise, people seem to think it is all right; there’s no real care by the players, “taking one for the team” if you want to call it that. The referee cannot do anything other than give yellow cards, which he did. But someone is going to get hurt, it’s dangerous, it’s not football.”