Motherwell 2 Hibernian 2: Craigan dents Hibs' Europe aspirations

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The Independent Football

Hibernian's European ambitions were dented at Fir Park yesterday as they conceded a costly stoppage-time equaliser to Motherwell captain Stephen Craigan.

Perhaps the Scottish Cup, in which they face Edinburgh rivals Hearts in the semi-finals, looks the shrewder bet for Tony Mowbray's capricious side, who failed to hold on to a lead provided by Stephen Glass and spilt points in their race with Rangers to qualify for the Uefa Cup.

A rousing contest emerged from the ashes of a first half which did scant justice to two of the most entertaining teams in the SPL. Hibernian, in particular, eschewed their normal passing fluency for a futile long-ball approach.

Motherwell had the best of scoring opportunities, principally because Scott McDonald's ceaseless foraging always puts defenders under pressure. The little Australian striker's pace carried him beyond Gary Caldwell and Gary Smith after just six minutes to allow Phil O'Donnell to cleverly set up Richie Foran, whose shot was pushed wide by goalkeeper Zibi Malkowski. Derek Riordan's anonymity underlined Hibernian's plight and half-time was fast approaching before the striker troubled Motherwell's goalkeeper, Graeme Smith, with a rare shot.

Motherwell, though, broke the deadlock in the 41st minute. McDonald chased a lost cause and got away with a barge in Caldwell's back, before advancing into the box and slipping a pass to O'Donnell that was steered past Malkowski with composure by the veteran midfielder.

Tony Mowbray's anger with his team's ineptitude was symbolised by the fact the visitors were out early for the second half and that translated into a zest that paid off with an equaliser inside three minutes.

Smith's long ball was glanced on by Chris Killen for Ivan Sproule to use his pace. The Northern Ireland player chased the ball to the byline and cut back a perfect return across the face of goal for Killen to stab in.

With 12 minutes left, Hibernian got the goal they craved. A neat exchange of passing between Kevin Thomson and Killen allowed Glass to cut in from the left and exploit his freedom by guiding an angled finish beyond Smith to the delight of the large travelling support. However, Motherwell earned a point in stoppage time when Craigan hooked in from eight yards after Steven Hammel's corner had created panic.