Hibs succumbed to their first defeat in the Ladbrokes Premiership this season after letting a second-half lead slip away to Livingston.
Daryl Horgan had appeared to set Neil Lennon’s side on the path to victory with a composed finish at the end of a goalmouth scramble. But two impressive solo goals from Shaun Byrne and Scott Pittman gave new manager Gary Holt his second victory in as many games as Livingston moved above their opponents in the league table.
The away side made two changes from last week’s 1-1 draw against Aberdeen with Jamie Maclaren returning to the starting XI following his late equaliser. He took the place of the absent David Gray, as Martin Boyle moved to right wing-back in the 3-5-2. The other change saw Lewis Allan granted his first competitive appearance for Hibs in over three years. He partnered Maclaren in attack with Oli Shaw taking up residence on the bench.
The visitors controlled the opening half hour but, aside from a few dangerous runs from Martin Boyle, they struggled to break down their organised and disciplined hosts.
Despite not seeing much of the ball in the period, it was Livingston who forced the first chance. Adam Bogdan had to be alert to tip away a hooked effort from Livi debutant Dolly Menga.
Hogdan shot over from 25 yards before Allan saw a close-range attempt deflected wide as Hibs tried in vain to find a way through. Stevie Mallan then fired high over the ball after a Boyle cross was deflected into his path.
Hibs forced Liam Kelly into his first save a minute later. Again Boyle was involved as his deflected cross dropped in the area of Allan. The youngster had to contort his body but got a good connection on his finish, which Kelly parried away at the far post.
The hosts then enjoyed their brightest spell of the period. Pittman embarked on a terrific solo run which took him from near halfway to deep inside the Hibs box as he jinked past players on the way. Just as he was about to pull the trigger, Steven Whittaker appeared to nick the ball off his toes.
Craig Halkett headed wide before Livingston blew a golden opportunity to take the lead. Menga streaked past Ryan Porteous on the counter and had a two-on-one situation with Scott Robinson against Paul Hanlon. The striker waited too long to pass for his team-mate, allowing Hanlon to get over and block the cross.
After surviving that scare, Hibs should have been ahead at the half. Boyle’s cross was missed by Allan but fell perfectly for Lewis Stevenson running in from the left wing. The defender could only side-foot his effort over the bar.
The hosts then had a similar opportunity at the beginning of the second half. Menga maneuvered around Porteous before crossing for Pittman. The midfielder failed to take a strong first touch, meaning he had to dig out his shot, which was hit right at Bogdan.
It looked like they would rue that miss when Hibs took the lead on 52 minutes. An Efe Ambrose long throw into the six-yard box started a frantic scramble. When it rolled into the path of Horgan the summer signing from Preston cooly steered his effort into the far corner with the outside of his boot.
The advantage would last only six minutes as Lennon’s men were pegged back by a terrific goal from Shaun Byrne. The defensive-midfield spoiler showed the skills of a enterprising playmaker to control a high ball before beating two defenders and drilling the ball low past Bogdan.
Buoyed by his strike, Byrne almost had the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later. Cutting in from the right flank, his inswinging cross almost found the far corner as it whistled just wide.
Bogdan was then forced into a full-stretch stop to tip over a Scott Pittman header as Livingston turned up the pressure.
Just after introducing Thomas Agyepong for his debut in a bid to add some creative spark, Lennon then watched his side fall behind. Again it was a poor goal for the away defence to lose, as Pittman evaded a couple of challenges inside the area before emphatically slamming his finish beyond the goalkeeper.
Hibs pushed for a late equaliser, but barring a half-chance for Boyle, which he sliced into the side netting, they couldn’t find a way through.
Livingston (3-5-2): Kelly; Gallagher, Lithgow, Halkett; Lawless (Kaja 65), Byrne, Pittman, Jacobs, Lamie; Robinson (Cadden 77), Menga (Hamilton 83). Subs not used: Stewart, McMillan, Lawson, Burns.
Hibs (3-5-2): Bogdan; Ambrose, Porteous, Hanlon; Boyle, Mallan (Agyepong 70), Whittaker, Horgan, Stevenson; Allan (Shaw 76), Maclaren (Hyndman 63). Subs not used: Laidlaw, Slivka, Murray, Mackie
Bookings: Hibs - Whittaker
Referee: Steven McLean
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