It may have been another patchy performance, but the one thing Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom couldn’t question was his side’s battling qualities after they fought back to snatch a last-minute win in their final pre-season friendly against Carlisle.
The Easter Road side looked well beaten at 3-1 down and the minutes ticking away, but the capital side delighted their travelling support with late goals from Scott Allan, Christian Doidge and Josh Campbell, the latter two claiming their first goals of the club.
After being beaten by Arbroath and forced to come from behind to beat Dunfermline at the weekend, this was Heckingbottom’s last preparation before face Stirling Albion in their first competitive match on Saturday.
Carlisle boss Steven Pressley had admitted facing Hibs in what was the first of his side’s six pre-season games wasn’t ideal given the Edinburgh side were well ahead of his players in terms of match fitness and, ultimately, that proved to be the case as players ran out of steam in the final minutes.
Jack Bridge had the League Two side ahead against the run of play before Flo Kamberi, scorer of Hibs third goal at East End Park, hauled Hibs level before the interval.
But a stunning strike from Carlisle substitute Hallam Hope had the Blues ahead again and they stretched that lead as Darren McGregor pushed a leg out to deflect Keighran Kerr’s flick into his own net.
However, Heckingbottom’s players refused to lie down, Allan pulling one back before £350,000 signing Doidge headed home the equaliser with four minutes to play. At that point it looked as if Hibs would settle for a draw but, with only seconds left, youngster Campbell angled home the winner.
Even so, the Hibs head coach will look to those league cup games against Stirling, Alloa Athletic, Arbroath and Elgin City to fine-tune his side ahead of their opening Premiership match against St Mirren.
After holding Hibs In the opening 20 minutes as the Edinburgh outfit took control, knocking the ball around and keeping their opponents on the back foot without being able to engineer an opening, Carlisle silenced the 1067 Hibs fans who had travelled south, Bridge firing in a low shot which beat goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, making his first appearance following international duty with Israel, at his right hand post.
But Hibs hit back, Oli Shaw laying off a neat pass for Kamberi to force a decent save from Carlisle goalkeeper Louis Gray who, a couple of minutes later, was left helpless as the Swiss striker took a clever ball from Stevie Mallan to angle a low shot into the far corner.
The Easter Road side would have felt well worth their equaliser but they found themselves behind again less than two minutes into the second half, Carlisle substitute Hope unleashing a thunderous shot from 25 yards which left Marciano beaten all ends up.
Hibs had travelled with a smaller squad than previously with David Gray, Steven Whittaker and Paul Hanlon failing to make the trip but as the hour mark approached, Heckingbottom made the expected raft of changes but to no avail as Carlisle found themselves with a two-goal cushion thanks to an own goal from McGregor.
Jamie Armstrong’s cross from the right was flicked on by Keighran Kerr and the Hibs captain for the night stuck out a leg to deflect if beyond Marciano.
Hibs stuck to their task, however, and pulled a goal back thanks to the persistence of Doidge, the former Forest Green Rovers striker refusing to give up as he battled for possession deep inside Carlisle’s penalty area before cutting the ball back for Allan, one of those introduced on the hour-mark, to side foot home from the 18 yard line. And then came that dramatic finale to send the fans back up the road to Edinburgh happy.
Carlisle (first half): Gray, Branthwaite, Webster, Mellish, Iredale, Ricketts, Bridge, Jones, Dixon, McKirdy, Storey. Second half: Gray, Elliott, Duffus, Ricketts (Kerr 59), Mellish (Birch 59), Hope, Scougall, Reeves, Dixon (Charters 59), Bridge (Armstrong 59), Knight-Percival.
Subs not used: Collin.
Hibs: Marciano, James, McGregor, Jackson, Mackie, Horgan (F Murray 59), Mallan (Stirling 60), Campbell, Newell (Moon 46), Shaw (Allan 59), Kamberi (Doidge 59). Subs not used: Maxwell, Doig, Sadiki.
Ref: Anthony Backhouse.