Partick Thistle took the lead on 48 minutes after a series of errors from Hibs allowed Kris Doolan through on goal, and he calmly slotted the ball past an advancing Ben Williams to put the away side in front. From that point on it looked likely that Hibs would be suffering their first defeat under Butcher, but Collins popped up a minute before the end with a close-range finish, rescuing a valuable point for the home side and seeing their unbeaten run stretch to three games.
Owain Tudur Jones coming in for the injured Scott Roberston was the only change Butcher made to his Hibs side, the manager no doubt hoping the team could pick up from where they left off against Ross County last weekend. The opening spell of the game saw chances for both sides, with former Jags midfielder Paul Cairney forcing a corner early on with a stinging shot that required goalkeeper Scott Fox to push it around the post. At the other end, Williams was called into action as well to block a powerful shot from Kallum Higginbotham.
After half an hour, Partick Thistle were forced into a change as Ross Forbes replaced Steven Lawless because of an injury. Both sides still seemed to be evenly matched, but it was another good save from Fox just before half-time as he was tested by a long-range Ryan McGivern effort.
The away side seemed to start a little brighter in the second half, and it was after only three minutes that Doolan stole the ball from Jordan Forster and skipped past him and fellow central-defender Paul Hanlon to slide a composed finish past Williams to put Partick Thistle ahead.
From that moment on, it looked as though the away side would hold on to take all three points, and leave Butcher to deal with his first defeat as Hibernian manager. Partick Thistle substitute Forbes looked to be in the perfect position to double his side’s lead and seal their win, but pulled his shot wide of the target. At the other end, Collins and youngster Jason Cummings both had chances to equalise, and Cummings in particular, who has scored 27 goals for the u20s side this season, will feel disappointed that he couldn’t connect with the ball to get his shot away when it landed to him in the box.
It was in the second minute of added time that Hibs’ breakthrough finally came, with Hanlon nodding down a Williams free-kick to the feet of Collins, who didn’t need to be told twice before firing the shot into the back of the net from just outside the six-yard box. The goal was Collins’ third of the season, and his first since scoring against St Mirren back in September.
Speaking after the game, Butcher revealed that the players were disappointed not to have got all three points:- “The boys are disappointed in the dressing room not to have won the game, not that we probably deserved to win it. but we wanted to win the game today.
“They did okay first half, then they scored a goal out of nothing from our throw. Their keeper’s made a good save from Owain [Tudur Jones] then they score and you can see that all of a sudden it’s like someone has turned a tap and their confidence just floods out, but it took a while to get back and we changed it round. The subs did well when they came on, and I think there was a kitchen sink in the penalty box at one stage as we threw everything forward and in the end perseverance paid off. That’s the word of the day for me, perseverance.”
Despite failing to record a win in the league since the last time Hibs met Partick Thistle, back in October, Butcher insisted that his team coped well under the circumstances:- “I said to the boys afterwards, look, I’m delighted with a point at the end of the day because we could have lost the game and probably a couple of months ago we would have lost the game, probably 2-0. It shows that the spirit is excellent and the belief is still there. We are a difficult team to beat as we just keep going and that’s a great plus point for me. There are things that we have to work on like style of play but it’s about confidence. The more games we are undefeated, the more resilient we are then the confidence will come back.”
There was also a word of praise for Collins, who Butcher described as “brilliant and inspirational” in his recent performances:- “He has led the line tremendously well and worked his socks off. He has good ability too and is prepared to miss chances but I was ecstatic when he scored because it was a great finish from a good Paul Hanlon header, and finally, a ball dropped to a Hibs player on the box, because the number of balls that went in there from crosses and corners it was amazing that it hadn’t happened before.
“The ball into the box at the end was a great ball. We brought on Nelse [Michael Nelson] and were pushing Jordon on because I wanted a big right winger to hit diagonals to because I couldn’t think of anything else to do tactically. I didn’t want to send Ben Williams up for corners and I think Maurice was going to send me on as well! We had enough height in the box but the ball just wouldn’t fall for us, but fair play to Partick Thistle.”
Owain Tudur Jones admitted that the performances wasn’t the best, but was satisfied with the point:- “You have to take the positives. It certainly wasn’t pretty, the second half especially and it was probably a nervy time going a goal down at home but we were delighted to get the goal at the end.
“When time is running out and you are looking at the clock and its ticking away faster than you would like you do start thinking that maybe it’s not going to be our day, but all you can do is keep going. I don’t think we had too many clear cut chances but we got the ball in the box plenty of times and hopefully in the weeks and months to come we can get some added quality in the last third.”
Hibs’ next game is against league leaders Celtic on Saturday 14th December. The reigning champions have scored twelve goals in their last two games, conceding none, and Butcher and his Hibs side will have to be on top of their game if they want to take anything away from Parkhead next week.