Paul Heckingbottom must have been having nightmares in the days leading up to this fixture that closely resembled the proceedings of the first 45 minutes of this match. His Hibernian side sat one point above the SPL’s bottom side St Johnstone before kick-off, without a win on the league since the opening day of the season and having surrendered winning positions in each of their last five, having lost a total of 13 points from such positions all season.
Unfortunately for Heckingbottom, he didn’t even have the opportunity to see his side take the lead on this occasion as two quick-fire goals just before half time from Livingston courtesy of Steven Lawless and Craig Sibbald, both partly owing to some questionable defending, gave the away side control of an extremely cagy game.
Hibernian were not short of chances of their own, with Glenn Middleton and Daryl Horgan teeing up chances for each other which forced saves from Livi goalkeeper Matjia Sarkic, who also produced a stunning save to deny a long-distance effort from Tom James at 0-0.
In spite of Hibs’ best efforts, they sauntered off at half-time to deafening boos at two goals down, many surely expecting that Paul Heckingbottom was giving his last half-time team talk at Easter Road.
Hibernian appeared rejuvenated at the start of the second half, Scott Allan drawing a foul from Livingston captain Alan Lithgow before burying the resulting penalty. However, Livingston looked to have the victory sealed as Scott Tiffoney intercepted a sloppy backpass and rounded Chris Maxwell in the home goal, but incredibly sent his shot wide from all of two yards out.
This proved to be the lifeline Hibernian needed, and if there was any doubt the momentum was not in their favour in the closing stages, Australia international Martin Boyle, yet to feature for Hibernian this season due to a knee injury, entered the fray greeted by a rapturous applause. All he needed was one opportunity, which fell his way in the 91st minute as a fatal lapse of Livi concentration saw one long ball set him on his way, as he calmly tucked the ball into the bottom right without even really breaking stride.
This may well be the goal that keeps Paul Heckingbottom in a job for the time being, which is more than can be said for cross-city rival Hearts manager Craig Levein, who was sent packing as his side were buried by bottom side St Johnstone and were set to the bottom of the pile themselves. Although there were boos on the full-time whistle, these became rounds of applause as the home side left the field, their supporters acknowledging the second-half turnaround.
Heckingbottom spoke in his post-match interview about the one-to-one training sessions he had been having with Martin Boyle during his recovery, and he is clearly under no illusions that his No. 10 will be a key factor as Hibs try to turn their season around. Boyle will have a tough job though, with a League Cup semi-final against Celtic on the cards this weekend, a side whose form contrasts hugely to that of Hibernian, who are now 12 games without a win inside 90 minutes. Livingston, meanwhile, visit Motherwell in the league, and although manager Gary Ross didn’t appear too disappointed despite his side’s second half collapse on Wednesday, he will certainly want to see a response this weekend.