Livingston 0, Hibs 0: Stubbs’ men denied by gutsy Livi

Hibs' Anthony Stokes is tackled by Livingston's Mark Fotheringham. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Hibs' Anthony Stokes is tackled by Livingston's Mark Fotheringham. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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HIBS blew the chance to cut Rangers’ lead at the top of the Championship table with a lacklustre performance against a gutsy Livingston.

Alan Stubbs’ players had gone into the tea-time match in West Lothian well aware the Ibrox club had been held to a 1-1 draw by basement outfit Alloa Athletic and that a win would put them six points behind with a game in hand.

But the Edinburgh side never looked like getting that victory, turning in an uninspiring performance in which they rarely tested Livingston goalkeeper Marc McCallum.

And, in fact, it was Livingston who went closest to scoring, Jordan White hitting the bar late in the second half, although both sides had netbound efforts blocked, leaving Hibs still eight points adrift of Rangers.

Hibs skipper David Gray made the starting line-up having been forced out of the Scottish Cup derby with Hearts after suffering a knock but Dylan McGeouch, also an injury victim at Tynecastle, was missing, his place going to Chris Dagnall who partnered Jason Cummings up front, with Anthony Stokes operating at the head of a midfield diamond.

A heavy snow shower in the 45 minutes leading up to kick-off left the surface of the Tony Macaroni Arena white, ground staff having to sweep the lines to aid referee Alan Muir and his fellow officials.

Hibs had to survive a major first-minute scare, Liam Buchanan firing a shot across goal which found Scott Pittman beyond the back post. His effort looked netbound but Paul Hanlon popped up on his own goalline to head clear.

The Easter Road club took their time in imposing themselves on the game and it took until the 15th minute for them to have an attempt on goal, top scorer Jason Cummings taking the ball on the volley from an angle but firing it straight at McCallum.

Darren Cole then misjudged a John McGinn cross which dropped over his head, seemingly catching Dagnall by surprise as the Hibs striker failed to make the most of the opportunity.

Hibs had, though, started to get into their stride, a string of superbly struck free-kicks from Liam Henderson forcing McCallum to punch clear rather than risk attempting to hold the ball in such conditions.

Stubbs’ players, however, had failed to carve out a clear scoring opportunity in the opening 35 minutes although Jackson Longridge had to get his head to Lewis Stevenson’s cross to prevent it finding Dagnall in space behind him,

Livingston were starting to find themselves under increasing pressure, Pittman throwing himself in as Stokes fired in a shot from the edge of the penalty area, doing enough to get the slightest of deflections on the ball before Stevenson’s cross was turned inside by Dagnall but Cummingss couldn’t supply the finishing touch.

Hibs continued to have the upper hand at the start of the second half, Hanlon making his way to the bye-line to deliver a cross which was met by the head of Gray, Ben Gordon knocking his attempt off the line, a role reversal from the opening minutes when the Easter Road skipper performed the same task in denying the Livingston defender.

Livingston were disciplined, presenting Hibs with two banks of four and leaving Stokes and Cummings to drop towards the halfway line to gain possession, something Stubbs attempted to change by bringing Kevin Thomson into midfield allowing Stokes to push up alongside Cummings instead of Dagnall.

The home side, however, were far from out of the game and were left cursing their luck twice in the space of seconds. Hibs goalkeeper Mark Oxley dived to punch clear White’s cross but succeeded only in pushing the ball into the path of substitute Gary Glen.

But Oxley redeemed himself by throwing his body forward to block Glen’s shot, the ball spinning wide for White whose curling shot crashed back off the bar.

Hibs had huffed and puffed but shown little inspiration on an afternoon when they had the chance to increase the pressure on Rangers while Livingston would consider themselves well worthy of the precious point they’d earned.

Livingston: McCallum, Halket, Cole, Longridge (Glen 64), Gordon, Mullin (Telfer 73), Pittman, Fotheringham, Kakay, White, Buchanan (Currie 80).

Substitutes not used: Quinn, Sheerin, Neill, Knox.

Hibs: Oxley, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Henderson (Boyle 86), Bartley, McGinn; Cummings (Keatings 86), Dagnall (Thomson 64), Stokes.

Substitutes not used: Virtanen, Fontaine, Carmichael, Gunnarsson.

Referee: Alan Muir

Attendance: 2663