BLACKBURN Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson was a virtual spectator as his side dominated possession, playing some neat approach football, before squandering a host of convertible chances.

Chelsea loanee Franco Di Santo almost got off to the perfect start, he probably should have done, when he ghosted in at the far post unmarked only to see his close range header brilliantly beaten out by Hibs stopper Yves Ma-Kalambay on five minutes.

Ma-Kalambay had already tipped Morten Gamst Pedersen’s 20-yard free-kick over the bar a few minutes earlier as Allardyce’s Rovers started the game in dominant fashion against their SPL opponents.

The majority of those who turned out on a balmy East Lancashire night were also given their first glimpses of fellow close-season signings Steven Nzonzi and Lars Jacobsen, while Elrio Van Heerden and David Hoilett were handed second half Ewood Park debuts.

It was two of the new boys who combined for Rovers’ next chance on 17 minutes, Jacobsen again the provider, as the marauding Nzonzi fluffed his lines after creating a shooting position for himself.

Jacobsen’s solid display at right back suggested Andre Ooijer has been more than adequately replaced while the towering Nzonzi showed again his composure in possession that has left Rovers’ management drooling over the Frenchman’s potential.

For all Nzonzi’s promise though, the continued absence of the more experienced David Dunn and Vince Grella has to be a growing concern as the season’ kick-off draws ever closer – with Rovers still reluctant to throw the former Amiens man straight into the Premier League cauldron.

Di Santo was inches away from giving the hosts the lead just a minute into the restart, smartly turning on the edge of the area before sending a low strike just past the right hand post.

Pedersen then headed Paul Gallagher’s deep right wing cross into the arms of Ma-Kalambay, before Roberts spurned a golden chance to break the deadlock on 59 minutes.

Gallagher and Di Santo had combined well to set the striker clear in the penalty area but his shot was easily parried away by the Hibs goalkeeper as the hosts’ frustration in front of goal grew.

Di Santo was replaced just past the hour mark to a standing ovation with the oncoming David Hoilett given an equally big cheer as he started what many believe could be an exciting Ewood Park career.

And the Canadian youngster threatened to open the scoring on 73 minutes, shimmying past one defender before seeing his goal-bound shot blocked by a despairing visiting lunge.

He went even closer minutes later when, latching on to the goalkeeper’s mis-clearance his 18 yard shot was kept out by the despairing Ma-Kalambay’s legs, before Pedersen had a shot deflected just wide.

ROVERS: Paul Robinson, Lars Jacobsen, Martin Olsson, Steven Nzonzi, Chris Samba, Zurab Khizanishvili (Ryan Nelsen 64), Paul Gallagher (Elrio Van Heerden 83), Keith Andrews (Aaron Doran 68), Jason Roberts, Franco Di Santo (David Hoilett 64), Morten Gamst Pedersen.

SUBS: Jason Brown, Stephen Warnock, El-Hadji Diouf HIBERNIAN: Yves Ma-Kalambay, Kevin McCann (David Van Zanten 79), Ian Murray, Chris Hogg, Souleymane Bamba, Kevin McBride (Steven Thicot 79), Merouane Zemmama, Patrick Cregg (David Wotherspoon 79) Colin Nish, John Rankin (Daniel Galbraith 79), Lewis Stephenson (Lee Currie 79) SUBS: Thomas Flynn