A goal from Dundee United’s centre back William Edjenguele consigned Hibs to a three game non-winning streak at Easter Road. Despite going ahead in the first half with a goal from James Keatings and dominating the bulk of possession, Neil Lennon’s men were unable to convert their dominance into goals.
Neil Lennon made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Queen of the South last weekend, with Marvin Bartley, Brian Graham and Martin Boyle all making way, with Lewis Stevenson suspended after his red card in the same match. In came Andrew Shinnie, Fraser Fyvie, James Keatings and Jordan Forster, with Forster the only man of the four not to play in the shock 2-1 home defeat to Ayr a fortnight ago.
It was a strong start for Lennon’s men, good work down the left from Keatings led to a corner that was poorly dealt with by United. The ball dropped to Paul Hanlon who was unmarked, but his air kick resulted only in a second corner. A poor challenge on the edge of the box followed the corner, giving James Keatings a chance to try his hand at set-pieces. His freekick curler almost inevitably into the top corner before clipping the corner of the woodwork.
Fraser Fyvie was a constant thorn in the side of United, intercepting any sign of danger well, and his added pace compared to the benched Bartley gave Hibs some added counter attacking impetus. However, his midfield partner John McGinn fell foul to two mistakes in a matter of seconds, almost allowing United through on the 12th minute, but Simon Murray’s cross was poor and the Arabs were unable to take advantage after the ball ricocheted upfield.
On the 22nd minute the first chance from open play fell to Shinnie after neat work in the middle of the park from the striker and Keatings. They’re one-two freed McGinn whose cross went straight to the feet of the midfielder, but the connection was poor and it span well wide of Cammy Bell’s left hand post.
The Tannadice club had their own big chance on the half hour mark, Scott Fraser, whose direct running caused problems all afternoon, broke away from the Hibs midfield before feeding Simon Murray on the right. The strikers shot was weak, and was an easy save for Marciano.
It didn’t take long after that for Hibs to finally strike. Shinnie received the ball on the left and perfectly picked his moment to place his pass onto the run of James Keatings. Keatings made no mistake and his pinpoint finish into the right hand side of the net gave Hibs the lead. A chance for van der Velden on the 40th minute showed that was hope for the Arabs, with the lumbering midfielder taking the ball down from a Fraser corner, beating two defenders before seeing his toe-poke deflected wide.
Neal Eardley made his debut at half time, coming on for the hurt David Gray. But it was his partner at full-back Hanlon who had the first chance of the match. A neat pass from Cummings allowed Hanlon to cut inside and drive into the box, but his shot was skewed wide of the far post.
Early on in the second half, the injured Lewis Toshney (with a possible broken ankle) and Nick van der Velden made way for Charlie Telfer and Cammy Smith, in a move by Ray McKinnon to create some urgency in his midfield. It had little effect, Eardley and Shinnie both caused problems down the flanks in the first fifteen minutes of the half, and Fyvie continued to protect the back four well.
Obadeyi was the last of McKinnon’s changes on the 67th minute and the physical midfielder had an instant impact, winning a corner on the left hand side for United. It proved a managerial masterstroke seconds after when Fraser’s corner was met by the towering figure of William Edjenguele who powered home United’s equaliser.
After the match Lennon was furious with his sides lack of impact at set pieces. The Northern Irishman, audibly frustrated at his players said “We get so many corners and we don’t convert them, teams playing against us get maybe one or two and are scoring, so it’s something we need to address”
A McGinn shot on the 70th minute was the closest Hibs got to a winner, with the midfielder shooting from long range after a neat one-two with Shinnie in the middle of the park. A minute later a shimmy from Hanlon allowed the left-back to get a cross into the middle of the box, landing squarely at the onrushing Shinnie. The on-loan Birmingham City man was almost surprised by the quality of the ball, with his attempted shot turning into good first touch control but with the unfortunate consequence of forcing him wide and sounding the death knell to the opportunity.
Throughout the match Hibs top scorer Jason Cummings was at his frustrating best, holding the ball up well but too often finding himself under pressure or simply taking too many touches and Neil Lennon decided his time on the park was up with fifteen minutes to go. The northern Irishman hauling the striker and Shinnie off, replacing them with ex-Tannadice man Brian Graham and ex-Dundee man Martin Boyle.
The two didn’t make that much of an impact, with United deciding with ten minutes to go that time-wasting was now the name of their game. The slow play infuriated the Hibs manager on the touchline, with his anger mostly aimed at his own players for their poor passing and referee Craig Thomson for what Lennon deemed an inability to control the flow of the game.
With an attendance of over 15,000, Hibs tried their best to mount a last gasp sprint for the winner, but a poor first touch let Dylan McGeouch down twice with Hibs in the ascendancy in the United half. The basics were not being done well by the Hibees, and it showed through their frustrated body language with Fraser Fyvie receiving a yellow for what was as close to a headlock as you get in football.
Hibs had a huge chance to win it in the last seconds, fantastic work from man of the match James Keatings allowed him space on the left hand side of the box, with his venomous shot well parried away by Cammy Bell in the United goal.
Hibernian fans will have left the ground as frustrated as their players will be, after their club really should have come away with a win. Defensive lapses and a lack of cutting edge is becoming a worryingly regular problem for Hibs, with the Championship developing nicely into a title battle that could last to the very last moment.
Full post-match reaction in audio report above
Hibs: Marciano, Gray (Eardley, 45), Forster, McGregor, Hanlon, McGinn, Fyvie, McGeouch, Shinnie (Boyle, 76), Keatings, Cummings (Graham, 76)
Subs (not used): Laidlaw, Bartley, Holt, Harris.
United (4-1-4-1): Bell, Dixon, Durnan, Edjenguele, van der Struijk, Toshney (Telfer 50), Fraser, Andreu, van der Velden (Smith 51), Spittal, Murray (Obadeyi 65).
Subs: Dillon, Donaldson, Zwick, Robson