Kilmarnock 1 Hibernian 1
Kilmarnock and Hibernian served up some decent festive fare before sharing the spoils in their Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash at a sodden Rugby Park.
In an entertaining first-half played in almost constant rain, striker Paul Heffernan gave the Ayrshire side the lead in the sixth minute before Hibees hit-man Eoin Doyle levelled in 26 minutes with his third goal in two games.
While Killie defender Robbie Fowler made a goalline clearance from Paul Cairney just after the break, excitement levels dipped and thereafter neither side did enough to claim all three points.
However, both sets of players deserve credit for playing in some miserable conditions, as did the 4,023 fans who braved the conditions.
Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels made one enforced change to his side with James Dayton coming into midfield to replace the suspended Liam Kelly.
The visitors, without skipper James McPake through suspension, showed two changes to their starting line-up with Lewis Stevenson coming in at left-back and midfielder Gary Deegan replacing Jorge Claros, who started on the bench.
Pat Fenlon’s men, captained by Paul Hanlon and playing in all-yellow, found themselves behind early in the game after defender Alan Maybury had fouled Dayton 25 yards from goal when it looked as if he was favourite to clear Heffernan’s poor cross.
Ben Williams made a fine save from Borja Perez’s powerful free-kick but the Leith side failed to clear their lines and when Killie defender Michael Nelson put Heffernan in the Irishman skilfully lobbed the Hibs keeper from inside the box.
Stunned Hibs battled back but it was Killie who had the next chance in the 14th minute when Dayton’s fine cross from the left found Heffernan but his header from eight yards slipped past the far post.
Moments later, Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths fired a free-kick from 30 yards over Cammy Bell’s crossbar, before his low drive from similar distance sped past the post with the Rugby Park keeper scrambling to cover.
However, the visitors got themselves back on level terms after Heffernan lost possession in the centre circle with the ball breaking to Cairney.
The Hibs midfielder sent Griffiths racing down the right and his driven cross arrived at Doyle who did well to turn it at the far post.
Moments later, Heffernan had a drive deflected past for a corner from which the home side failed to capitalise before Doyle had a decent effort from 25 yards saved by Bell.
It was developing into an open game and in the 32nd minute Heffernan cleverly set up Jeroen Tesselaar inside a packed Hibs penalty area but the left-back’s left-footed drive from 14 yards missed the target.
Four minutes from the break Killie escaped following a David Wotherspoon corner when Bell punched the ball in an attempted clearance and breathed a sigh of relief as it cannoned off Hanlon and back over the bar.
The Easter Road men should have taken the lead just over a minute into the second-half when Doyle set up Cairney in the box but his chip over Bell – when it looked like he would have been better off blasting it – was headed off the line by Fowler.
There was little between the two sides but Bell found himself called into action again when he had to push a long-distance drive from Griffiths round the post for a corner which, once more, came to nothing.
It looked as if something special would be needed to find the winner and Kilmarnock defender Mohamadou Sissoko almost provided it when he ventured up the park to have a go from 35 yards but watched as the ball fizzed just past Williams’ left-hand post.
Moments later, as the game continued to flow from end-to-end, Cairney picked up a booking from referee Bobby Madden for simulation after going to ground inside the box when taking on Nelson.
In the 76th minute Chris Johnston came on for Heffernan and Ivan Sproule replaced Wotherspoon as both bosses looked for some inspiration.
However, while play was stretching by the minute as the match entered its final stages, there was no clues as to which side were most likely to find the winner.
In the 85th minute Williams spilled Dayton’s 25-yard free-kick before the Hibs defence eventually cleared to safety but in the end both sides looked as if they had run out of steam and thus, a draw was probably a fair result.