Ross County 1, Hibs 1: Visitors pass up chance to go fourth as Nisbet suffers injury and striker signs during half-time
Hibs passed up the chance to go fourth in the cinch Premiership with a 1-1 draw against Ross County in Dingwall – and signed a striker during the half-time break.
Élie Youan scored his second goal in as many games but Yan Dhanda equalised direct from a corner in controversial circumstances, with Hibs claiming goalkeeper David Marshall was fouled, preventing him from challenging for the ball.
In grim conditions of strong wind and frequent rain showers both sides struggled to carve out any real opportunities in the opening exchanges. The hosts enjoyed most of the early pressure, with Joe Newell heading a Jack Baldwin effort off the line after Dhanda’s cross had picked out the centre-back and Alex Iacovitti found the side-netting after Keith Watson knocked on Baldwin’s long throw-in. At the other end Youan was seeing plenty of the ball without being able to test Ross Laidlaw.
Nisbet’s departure on 25 minutes with what looked like a hamstring injury presented Harry McKirdy with an opportunity to build on his impressive showing against Aberdeen at the weekend and his introduction prompted a reshuffle in the frontline with Youan moving to a central role and McKirdy and Aiden McGeady supporting from the flanks.
Youan’s goal came largely out of nothing – Jimmy Jeggo’s hooked pass forwards bounced awkwardly and Baldwin’s attempt to knock it back to Laidlaw fell short and Youan stole in front of the defender and slotted into the bottom corner.
Hibs pushed for a second but were left frustrated, and Chris Cadden had to be alert to charge down a driven effort from George Harmon before Ross Callachan blazed over from the edge of the area shortly before the break.
Lee Johnson had hinted that the Easter Road side weren’t quite done in the transfer market, following the departure of Emmanuel Johnson to Austin FC on a season-long loan but it was still something of a surprise when the club announced the loan signing of USA cap Matthew Hoppe from Middlesbrough. With Mykola Kukharevych out injured, and Momodou Bojang and Elias Melkersen leaving the club earlier this month, the 21-year-old forward will provide another option in attack.
Going by Hibs’ efforts in the final third in the second half, they could well need something different in front of goal. Laidlaw had one save to make from a Youan effort heading for the far corner but beyond that Hibs were largely toothless and they were made to pay on 73 minutes when Dhanda’s corner from the left ended up in the net without a player in the box touching the ball.
The Hibs players surrounded referee Graham Grainger claiming for a foul on David Marshall and it certainly looked like the goalkeeper was impeded by a combination of Keith Watson and Jordan White as they challenged for the ball. A VAR check was carried out but the goal stood, without the official checking the monitor for a second look.
Johnson brought on Josh O’Connor for Jeggo and handing a debut to CJ Egan-Riley, who replaced Cadden. Egan-Riley’s first act was to hook a ball clear on the edge of the area with White lurking. County recycled the ball but were unable to test Marshall further.
The game petered out after that, with neither side managing any more meaningful efforts.