Hibernian were left to rue missed opportunities as they were held to a goalless draw by Ross County on a frustrating afternoon in the Highlands.
Hibs carved out several gilt-edged opportunities during the 90 minutes, with the best of them coming in the opening stages when Martin Boyle was twice in on goal, Kyle Magennis struck the woodwork and Kevin Nisbet had an effort cleared off the goal-line.
Ross County were reduced to ten men when Connor Randall was dismissed for a cynical challenge on Boyle as he prepared to run through on goal in the closing stages. Despite penning the hosts back, Hibs were unable to find a way through a resolute home defence and had a settle for a share of the spoils.
After utilising his full squad in the recent Betfred Cup group matches, Jack Ross named a more familiar looking line-up this afternoon.
New signing Magennis made his first league start for Hibs, whilst Ofir Marciano, Alex Gogic, Ryan Porteous, Paul McGinn and Paul Hanlon all went straight back into the side following international duty.
The Easter Road men started brightly and were unlucky not to be ahead in the opening minutes when Boyle burst through; the winger got himself in between Keith Watson and Regan Charles-Cook and as he set himself for a shot at goal, the latter poked the ball away.
From the resultant corner kick the ball fell to Magennis on the edge of the box, he attempted to curl a right-foot effort into the far corner of the net only for it to crash back into play off the post with Ross Doohan beaten all ends up.
Hibs were dominating the opening stages and should have been ahead when Boyle once more burst clear, only to drag his shot wide of goal when left with only Doohan to beat. The winger had attempted to arch his finish across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net only to get his angles wrong.
Moments later Nisbet got the break of the ball inside a packed penalty box and fired a shot under Doohan, this time Alex Iacovitti was perfectly positioned to hook it clear off the goal-line as the Country goal continued to live a fragile existence.
Hibs could and should have been a couple of goals ahead and Ross County were fortunate not be behind. Yet, having weathered the storm, County grew into the game and soon carved out opportunities of their own.
First, Charlie Lakin did well to evade Porteous on the edge of the Hibs box only for Hanlon to block bravely. Michael Gardyne and Ross Stewart both saw efforts at goal drift wide of the target before Lakin stung the palms of Marciano’s hands with a rasping drive from distance.
Nisbet and Doidge, along with Gardyne and Iocovitti, all had efforts either just before or just after the half-time break without testing the opposition goalkeeper.
On 66 minutes a terrific floated ball over the top by substitute Stevie Mallan released Christian Doidge through on goal, the Welsh striker did well to cushion the ball on his chest, however he was denied by Doohan, who was quickly on his feet to beat away Nisbet’s follow-up from the rebound.
Doohan, making his first league start of the campaign, was again the County saviour shortly after when he kept out a Mallan effort before Lewis Stevenson fired the rebound off target.
With 12 minutes remaining Ross County were reduced to ten men. The Highlanders were guilty of overcommitting bodies forward and a quick counterattack from the visitors ended when Randall crudely hauled down Boyle as he burst clear. Referee Nick Walsh was left with no option other than to show the defender a straight red card.
Hibs threw caution to the wind and tried to make their numerical advantage count as they went in search of a winning goal. They withdrew defender Stevenson and replaced him with the more attack-minded Jamie Gullan for the closing stages.
The Edinburgh side pushed hard for a late winner and certainly had opportunities to snatch one. Nisbet was just unable to turn in a low, driven cross from Hanlon and Doidge headed over from a Mallan delivery as Hibs twice went close.
There was time for one more attack and deep into time added on McGinn picked out Hanlon at the back post with a hanging cross, however the skipper headed straight at Doohan before nodding the rebound wide of goal.
Despite being the better side for long spells and earning a sixth clean sheet of the campaign, it was a frustrating afternoon for a Hibs side that should have returned to Edinburgh with all three points. Next up for Hibs is a visit to Kilmarnock next weekend.
Referee: Nick Walsh.
Report: Richard Payne.
Image: Alan Rennie.