Hibs rue missed opportunities as Jack Ross proven right in 1-1 draw with Rijeka
Offering a pre-match assessment of the latest obstacle en route to Hibs’ intended destination - the Conference League group stages - the Easter Road manager Jack Ross said that his side had faced better teams than Rijeka on domestic duty.
He wasn’t wrong. But the fact that the Leith side looked so comfortable in the Croatian’s company but couldn’t convert their greater tally of efforts into a scoreline which accurately reflected that was cause for frustration.
They did demonstrate this season’s resilience, coming from behind for the third game in a row, but on the balance of play and the number of goal-scoring opportunities they really should be boarding the plane next week with a confidence-boosting lead.
An open game, Hibs will still believe they can head to the Kvarner region and win the tie but if they don’t, they will look back on the chances squandered in this match and kick themselves.
As both teams tried to stamp their authority on proceedings Kyle Magennis swung in a free-kick and Paul Hanlon rose at the back post with the keeper, Nediljko Labrovic, and Andrija Vukcevic. It ended with all three in a heap and the Hibs captain and the visiting goalie sporting matching head bandages for the remainder of the game.
Rijeka had a half-chance from Ivan Tomecak that Macey saved but at the other end Magennis played an inviting Hibs corner into the mix but no-one could react quick enough.
That was the story of the first half as decent deliveries narrowly evaded the men who could be expected to finish, and Labrovic proved equal to the shots that did rain in, from Martin Boyle, after some nice link-up play from Magennis and Newell left Paul McGinn to supply the final ball in. The full-back was also the supply line when Jamie Murphy had a weaker dig a minute later.
Hibs had grown into the game and their advances gave the crowd voice.
They didn’t have it all their own way, though, with Prince Ampem producing a shot from distance that dipped just over.
Boyle tore down the right flank soon after and presented Kevin Nisbet with a chance he should have put the laces through. Instead he almost chipped it back to the keeper.
Lewis Stevenson was then unlucky to see his fierce strike come back off the far post.
After the break, Murphy and Nisbet should have been more clinical, as should Boyle, who found the side netting.
Inevitably, they were left kicking themselves when Ampem finally opened the scoring in the 61st minute, winning a backpost header to stun Hibs.
Hibs did respond when Boyle found the net from close range five minutes later and Hibs threw on Christian Doidge and Dan Mackay in attack to try to press home their advantage.
Mackay was through one-on-one in the dying minutes but the fact his effort was blocked summed up the night and leaves Hibs with plenty to do if they are to progress to the play-off round.
Hibs: Macey, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Stevenson, Doyle-Hayes, Magennis (Gogic 81), Newell (MacKay 81), Boyle, Nisbet (Allan 81), Murphy (Doidge 63). Not used: Doig, Wright, Gullan, Dabrowski, McGregor, Samson, Campbell, Brydon.
Rijeka: Labrovi, Pereira Escoval, Vukcevic (Kresic 80), Tomecak, Galovic, Pavicic (Lepinjica 90+2), Drmic (Obregón 90+2), Liber (Muric 63), Smolcic, Abass, Ampem (Selahi 62). Not used: Braut, Gnezda Cerin, Prskalo, Frigan.