Kilmarnock 1, Hibs 0: Danny Armstrong penalty gives Killie vital win and turns up the pressure on Lee Johnson
The midfielder sent David Marshall the wrong way on 53 minutes from a VAR-awarded penalty, with the visitors unable to bounce back from their midweek defeat by Ross County.
Johnson made three changes to his side, bringing in Lewis Stevenson, Marijan Čabraja, and Josh Campbell in place of Rocky Bushiri, Demi Mitchell, and Ewan Henderson and appearing to go with a 4-4-2 set-up with Campbell on the right of midfield and Stevenson on the left.
Campbell was involved in Hibs’ first sight of goal around ten minutes into the game, heading a long ball down to Chris Cadden whose inviting low cross just evaded the outstretched toe of Mykola Kukharevych. There was a heart-in-mouth moment for Nohan Kenneh ten minutes after when his attempt to block a cross carried the ball dangerously close to David Marshall’s goal before trickling away.
On 25 minutes, Hibs found the back of the net as Elias Melkersen’s cutback was tucked away by Kukharevych, but not for the first time this season, the assistant referee’s flag was raised. The call went to a VAR check but the decision stood. Melkersen then had an effort saved by Sam Walker from close range after a Čabraja had been knocked down by Campbell but again the flag was up.
Hibs started the second period strongly, although Paul Hanlon had to be alert to cut out a Fraser Murray cross as the hosts threatened first. Melkersen was then sent clear by Joe Newell but the forward delayed his attempt and Joe Wright got in the way to concede a corner with a well-timed block.
Hanlon then got his head to Newell’s set-piece but couldn’t get enough power or accuracy on his header and Kilmarnock cleared the ball, heading upfield and winning a free kick after Čabraja was adjudged to have fouled Liam Polworth on the corner of the penalty area and the byline. But with referee David Dickinson not blowing his whistle, it became apparent that there was another VAR check under way. After a lengthy delay, the official pointed to the spot for a penalty with Armstrong dispatching from 12 yards.
Johnson reacted by bringing off Kenneh and Čabraja and introducing Henderson and a fit-again, newly-mohawked Harry McKirdy in a bid to freshen things up. Killie looked nervous, Hibs looked a bit livelier, and were flooding into the penalty area at every opportunity. But, as has been the way for Hibs in recent weeks, they couldn’t get the rub of the green in front of goal.
Melkersen went close with an acrobatic attempt with 15 minutes remaining and McKirdy tried his luck with a volleyed effort. But when Ryan Porteous sent Henderson clear on the left side of the penalty area and the substitute blazed wide, déjà vu began to kick in.
McKirdy’s effort deep into injury time caused panic in the Kilmarnock box but no one was able to force the ball in, and the same player came close at the death but his effort was too high.
Hibs are now on a run of one win in six defeats and will be only too glad for the World Cup break.