Hibs Drop Into Playoff Position After Kilmarnock Defeat

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Hibs’ season continues for another two weeks after falling into the playoff position following yesterday’s 1-0 home defeat to Kilmarnock in front of a large crowd at Easter Road.

Terry Butcher made four changes from the side that lost narrowly to Ross County on Tuesday with Michael Nelson, James Collins, Duncan Watmore and Paul Heffernan replacing Alex Harris, Lewis Stevenson, Danny Handling and Jason Cummings in the starting XI.

Over 15,000 were inside the stadium as Hibs kicked off and Butcher’s men started the game brightly forcing a series of early corner kicks, before Sam Stanton blasted a free kick high over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.

Referee Craig Thomson sparked fury from the fans by ignoring a blatant foul on Watmore before Craig Samson then did well to prevent Scott Robertson’s first time effort and Jordon Forster’s strike deflected off of Vitalijis Maksimenko and flew just past the post.  Hibs continued to dominate and Barry Nicholson did well to clear Robertson’s header off the line.

On the half hour mark Hibs were denied a penalty when Nelson was bundled over by Manuel Pascali as Craig floated in a free kick which Forster headed just wide.

Ryan McGivern then went close when he headed inches over from another Craig delivery then as has happened so often recently, the visitors took the lead against the run of play.

Ross Barbour’s cross from the right wing found Kris Boyd, who unleashed a stunning strike from the edge of the box which beat Ben Williams.

Thomson was booed off the pitch at half time by the Hibs supporters.

Hibs almost equalised just after the break when Watmore’s corner caused panic amongst the Kilmarnock defenders but the ball was cleared after a stramash inside the six yard box.

Killie continued to look dangerous on as Hibs pressed forward and Jackson Irvine almost caught out Williams with a lob. The Hibs keeper then did well to prevent Rory McKenzie adding a second then produced a fine save to deny Boyd.

Collins went close with a header from McGivern’s cross but his effort went just wide.

With 15 minutes remaining Heffernan found Craig on the edge of the box and his powerful drive beat Samson but crashed back off the crossbar. At this point, the Hibs fans realised that this was not to be their day.

Alan Maybury and Owain Tudur Jones both had chances but the Ayrshire men held on to secure their SPFL safety.

After the game a dejected Terry Butcher said: “We’re missing a striker like Leigh Griffiths, a top class man to put the ball in the net.

“It’s been the story of our season in the last 10 or 12 games in particular, where we’ve done everything but score in the match.

“We were well on top in the first half, and they get one opportunity and it’s in the back of the net. Unfortunately it’s fallen to Kris Boyd and he doesn’t normally miss those chances.

“We dominated the first half with good possession and put a lot of balls in the box, and it just would not break for us. Second half we didn’t have as much possession and Kilmarnock looked comfortable. Then we got to grips with it again and we’ve hit the bar and had loads of incidents in front of goal, and it never dropped our way.

“Fair play to Kilmarnock, they’ve come and won 1-0. They did not have many chances in the game, I know [goalkeeper] Ben Williams made a good save at the end, but he’s hardly had anything to do.”

“We have to keep going, we’re not relegated, we’ve got two games left that can ensure we stay in the Premiership.

“The last four games the players have been totally committed, and they’ve played very well. They played well again today but once again it’s Hibernian nil.

“It’s soul-destroying, it’s disappointing, it’s heartbreaking, we’re all devastated because of where we’ve finished and we just haven’t put enough goals in the back of the net.

“We’ve got 10 days now until the first play-off match and we’ll work on it, we’ll work very hard.

“It’s hard to look forward to these games because it feels like you’ve been slapped in the face, and I can only say sorry to the Hibs fans because we’ve put them through the wringer, and we’re put through the wringer on the sidelines as well because it just would not go in.”

“I’m absolutely committed,” he added. “The fans were great today; they really got behind the team.

“They tried like the rest of the boys tried, it was a great effort from the players but it just isn’t happening for us in front of goal and we’re punished at the other end. It’s the usual story but it can’t be the usual story in these next two games.”

Afterwards a number of fans demonstrated outside the West Stand calling for the head of Rod Petrie.

Hibs will now face either Falkirk or Hamilton over two legs, with the first taking place on 21 May.

Hibernian: Williams, McGivern, Nelson, Robertson (Tudur Jones 66′), Craig, Collins, Maybury, Watmore (Cummings 79′), Forster, Heffernan, Stanton (Harris 76′). Substitutes not used: Murdoch, McPake, Stevenson, Handling.

Kilmarnock: Samson, Tesselaar, Irvine, Nicholson (Muirhead 66′), Boyd, Barbour, McKenzie (Slater 66′), Eremenko, Maksimenko (Clingan 33′), Pascali, Ashcroft. Substitutes not used: Reguero, Johnston, Gros, Bouzid.

Referee: Craig Thomson.

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