It proved to be a week of highs and lows for the club, where the players’ resilience has really been put to the test.
The defeats to both Celtic and Motherwell did little in the way of providing any real optimism ahead of Saturday’s fixture at Kilmarnock. However, we displayed a real efficient team performance and were convincing winners at a venue we lost so heavily at the beginning of this season. To score six goals in our last two outings is certainly encouraging as the goals have been shared throughout the side. Despite conceding one goal to Killie, we also looked more solid defensively after surrendering nine goals in the space of just three days.
The midweek defeat at Motherwell had me puzzled. Scoring three goals away from home should be enough to take something from the match, particularly after taking a lead into half-time. But the second period was unpleasant viewing for the large Hibs support that had made their way through from Edinburgh as we gifted some really cheap goals to our opponents which effectively sealed our fate. Players are so often judged on individual performances and, for me, last Wednesday reinforced we are still one or two players short in certain positions across the park.
But to the players’ credit, a phrase that hasn’t been expressed enough this season, they managed to erase the heartache from the last couple of games and pick up a vital three points on the road. Not only has a small gap of three points been wedged between ourselves and Dunfermline, the victory now provides a platform for the players to find a little bit of consistency and put a winning run together.
However, nobody within the Easter Road camp will be able to erase the threat of relegation until we have accumulated enough points to guarantee our safety. As March edges closer, the finishing line is not as far in the distance as some would think with only ten league fixtures remaining. One thing that we can be certain of is the club will not encounter any meaningless matches between now and May, which can often prove to be the case for many other sides.
Furthermore, we also have the lure of a Scottish Cup quarter-final tie on the horizon. How many times have we seen in the past a side struggling for form in the league, are able to find their feet when the pressure is off. Staying in the SPL is ultimately the main priority and this will remain the same irrespective if we begin to pull away from the foot of the table. However, it is a nice position to be in at this stage of this season where we are only two games away from a Scottish Cup final appearance, a prospect not even the greatest optimist could have foreseen.
However, any talk of cup finals should firmly be put aside for now as we are still faced with a massive battle on our hands. The clubs positioned just above us may start to look over their shoulders should we manage to put some more points on the board in the next few weeks, but all we can do is focus on our own game.
It was refreshing to see so many supporters make the journey to both Motherwell and Kilmarnock as it shows they will turn out in numbers at a time when the players need their presence most. Discounting the Celtic performance, I am positive the fans will have appreciated the efforts from the players in recent weeks and will be hoping for a similar outcome from Saturday when St Mirren are next to arrive at Easter Road this coming weekend.