Donnelly prolongs Hibernian's wait

Dunfermline Athletic 1 Hibernian 1
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The Independent Football

There was still no rub of the green for Hibernian at East End Park, as their attempt to end a barren 13-year wait for a victory here was stolen from them by Simon Donnelly.

The Dunfermline substitute's 86th-minute equaliser, cancelling out Gary O'Connor's stunning opener, was of infinitely greater value to the hosts, struggling at the wrong end of the table.

There seemed little encour-agement that Hibernian's wretched record would change as Dunfermline contributed the most fluent passing in the early stages. Billy Mehmet came close with a shot after cutting inside and Scott Thomson, the Dunfermline captain, smacked a 25-yard free-kick against the post after Stephen Fletcher had fouled the tricky Thomas Butler.

When Gary Dempsey exchanged passes with Mehmet and seemed poised to reach the ball ahead of Simon Brown, the Hibernian goalkeeper, it took a desperate intervention from Gary Caldwell to protect the Edinburgh side's tenuous hold on the game.

Against that backdrop, O'Connor remarkably put Hibernian ahead against the run of play in the 39th minute. He profited from Derek Riordan's swift pass and subsequent movement to drag the markers away, and then thrashed a low, right-foot shot from 25 yards that squeezed in at Derek Stillie's near post.

Dunfermline were bemused. They could hardly conceive that such industry could bring no reward, but when Mehmet scorned a chance to restore parity early in the second half, striking Barry Nicholson's cross against Brown's legs, an ominous feeling began to filter around East End Park.

Just after the hour, Brown produced an even better save to deny a raking shot by Craig Brewster that zipped off the artificial turf. Not long after that, Riordan's run ended with a shot that Stillie pushed wide, and then the Hibernian striker was given a golden opportunity 10 minutes from time as he seized on Greg Shields' foolish pass-back. Riordan's inventive back-heel beat Stillie, but Shields recovered to knock the ball off the line.

That was to prove a costly moment for Hibernian. The hosts, sensing a point was still obtainable, threw everything in pursuit of an equaliser. Andy Tod somehow failed to convert Derek Young's cutback, but when Young threaded another pass through for Donnelly four minutes from time, he coolly clipped an angled finish beyond Brown.

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