Wright pounces to thwart Hibernian

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The Independent Online

Paul Wright denied his former club the Scottish Premier League leadership with a stunning late goal which ended Hibernian's perfect record at Easter Road.

Paul Wright denied his former club the Scottish Premier League leadership with a stunning late goal which ended Hibernian's perfect record at Easter Road.

Yet, rather than looking at the slip as a flaw in Edinburgh's title contenders, this simply demonstrated the strength of the contest beyond Celtic and Rangers. It was the fifth time this season that Kilmarnock have come from behind, and Wright has been puncturing ambitions ever since Sir Alex Ferguson gave him a debut as a 16-year-old at Aberdeen in the mid-1980s.

Given that both sides had each defeated Rangers in recent weeks, this was unlikely to be an open encounter. The first time the shackles were loosened was after eight minutes, when Franck Sauzée made a rare error which allowed Andy McLaren to steal in. However, the Kilmarnock forward's first touch was poor, allowing goalkeeper Nick Colgan to drop bravely at his feet.

Sauzée almost atoned with a curling free-kick which Gordon Marshall clutched confidently, and David Zitelli went close with a glancing header, but space was at a premium.

McLaren forced Colgan to scramble on the half hour when he swivelled and thrashed a shot which the keeper got down to. It needed one moment of excellence to prise these sides apart - and Hibernian provided it in the 32nd minute.

Ulrick Laursen showed composure on the left touchline and angled a deft pass to release Zitelli. The Frenchman whipped in a low cross which was met by Mixu Paatelainen's lunge to stab a left-foot shot beyond Marshall.

Kilmarnock's vigour, however, makes them experts at turning the screw as they try to retrieve a deficit. They penned Hibernian back for much of the second half. McLaren thought he had found a way through in the 56th minute when he cut in from the left flank and unleashed a vicious, dipping right-foot shot which Colgan just pushed around a post.

As Kilmarnock stretched the home defence, they found yet more more space. Utilising it was the problem. McLaren angled his header into the side-netting from Ian Durrant's cross and Craig Dargo squandered a glorious chance with 20 minutes left as the substitute, with time and freedom, tugged his shot wide of the target from only 14 yards.

As Hibernian watched the clock tick down, the loss of Sauzée and Paatelainen to injury did not seem that pivotal, but the absence of the Frenchman was glaringly evident when Kilmarnock equalised with five minutes left.

When McLaren's cross came in, Paul Fenwick unconvincingly challenged Alan Mahood. The ball broke to Wright, who had only been on the pitch six minutes, and he rifled a fine half volley past Colgan.

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