Hibs buckled under the pressure of defending a seven match winning run and succumbed to a Rangers team who worked hard, played with a strong mentality and won the game by two goals to nil.
The favourites tag never sits well with Hibernian and their knack of losing when the expectancy levels are high cropped up once more.
I’ll refrain from saying too much about the referee because I don’t think he’ll be out of McCulloch’s pocket long enough to defend himself.
His performance was blatant enough to give those with the belief of corruption in Scottish football more ammunition, but this is what we’ll be up against the rest of this season. The belief system engrained in Scottish football that we need a strong Rangers will dictate that.
Hibs’ three bookings to their eight fouls and Rangers’ two yellows to their sixteen fouls tells its own story which will get swept under the carpet.
However more importantly for me was Hibs were second best, all over the park and they failed to match the energy, the will-power and the want to win of their opponents.
Too many players produced abject performances and not forcing Cammy Bell to make a save is an embarrassing statistic.
The players weren’t at the races and no matter the constant decisions in the away teams favour the result was all they deserved.
What McCall did by playing five at the back was to prevent Hibs playing their game, the four in the middle were all over their Hibs counterparts and the lone striker up front, Nicky Clark, was a willing runner throughout.
An extremely defensive set-up by a team that really needed to win. A tactic vindicated when they did just that with a performance which belied the fact they still lie behind their east coast rivals.
The three points headed back west and Hibs will be left to rue a performance where they were out-thought, out-manoeuvred and out-fought.
The question, whether we could lift our performances, was raised previously when we comfortably but lethargically won our last six games and the reaction to adversity against Livingston was a point where the Hibees maybe thought a corner was turned.
Well they’ve reversed right back round that corner and down a path which has been followed all too often with this disappointing performance.
Hibernian have, at times, been extremely good this season but today was a low-point which mirrored so many terrible performances of last season.
The momentum they had built up is gone, the task now for Alan Stubbs is to re-group and ensure they don’t lose another game between now and the season’s end.
Hibs had plenty of the ball in the first half against a Rangers team who defended in numbers, pressed and hassled the Hibs midfield with Clark running the channels well when his team advanced.
Too often Hibs allowed McCulloch and Zaliukas to launch long balls in search of their lone striker. Hibs strikers failing to work hard enough to close down the defenders and allowing an out ball which turned the home defence more often than not.
At the other end having plenty of the ball means nothing when you fail to penetrate a team who have Moshni, McCulloch and Zaliukas at the back.
As lacklustre clashes go the first half was a non-entity really with neither goalkeeper being tested but Rangers got a huge lift when Lee Wallace scrappily turned home a loose ball in the box.
The Hibs defence was dragged out of position by Clark, occupying the space that an advanced David Gray had left open – pulling Hanlon out of position and eventually Rangers made their hosts pay.
Despite opportunities to clear and McGregor obstructing Robertson, in his attempts to defend, the ball fell kindly for Wallace and his toe-poke rose high in to the net to mercilessly punish a flat Hibernian.
The Rangers travelling support savoured that strike which came a couple of minutes before the interval and the Hibs supporters were left to think over an inept first half display.
Neither team had looked capable of scoring but when the chips are down you will take anything that comes your way and Wallace gratefully accepted the gift.
It would be unfair to be overly harsh on Alan Stubbs’ men and despite the loss confirming Hearts as convincing and undeniable champions there’s still plenty to play for as we enter the last week in March.
Disappointingly the result was confirmed, as if it hadn’t been already, thanks to an incredibly poor piece of officiating.
Kenny Miller taking advantage of yet another shambolic Willie Collum decision late on in the second half to double Rangers’ lead.
Miller advanced in to the box, unchallenged, to drill home a very controversial winner for his side.
Paul Hanlon was unceremoniously dumped in the area by Lee Wallace and with every player on the park expecting Collum to whistle for a free kick, Miller played on and settled the outcome.
The Hibs players should have played to the whistle and defended much better but inexplicably the assault on Hanlon went unpunished.
Miller was booked for his celebration and Hanlon had his name taking for questioning Collum’s decision.
It was a terrible decision at the worst possible time although I doubt it would have made too much of a difference in terms of the result.
Rangers won this game well, McCall got a reaction from his beleaguered players and Hibernian will need to react positively away to Raith Rovers next weekend.
Hibs had their best spell of the game in the fifteen minutes leading up to Miller’s strike but any chance they had was cruelly taken away from them.
Ironically the home sides own decision-making played a big part in why they failed to take anything from this game.
A fact which will, hopefully, not be lost in the furore of angry disappointment when it comes to the players analysing this match.
Dja-Djedje should have scored when straight though however he elected to square for his striker partner and the Rangers defence got back to clear.
The passing was awry, the classy touches and elegant control which has characterised Hibs performances this season was decidedly posted missing when it came to the crunch.
The important thing to remember is they still hold the advantage, win the rest of their league games and they finish second but Hibs have failed to capitalise on a situation which was set up, perfectly, for them to prove their doubters wrong.
Instead Rangers took advantage of the soft core that has run through Hibernian for far too long and the doubters were left to heap more pressure on the club.
So a second defeat in twenty-three was the result of this poor performance and Stubbs must ensure his team don’t slip up and undo all their good work up to this point.
It’s after days like this where you see the real mentality behind a group of players and perversely this defeat may well be defining rather than damaging.
The reaction at Starks Park, positive or not, will be most telling.
It’s over to Stubbs and co to produce another fine run and ensure this season ends with promotion.