The greatest disappointment Pat Fenlon will take from Saturday’s defeat in Dingwall will be managing to find the net twice, but ultimately failing to come away with any points.
From our matches to date this season, we have shown that scoring goals isn’t an issue with 17 goals already to our name but, defensively, there is massive room for improvement as we are conceding far too many goals away from Easter Road for my liking. Finding the correct balance is something we must address in the next few weeks if we are to stop leaking goals at the back.
It has been said many times before that inconsistency in the SPL this season is making way for a real battle to stay in a challenging position. Defeat on Saturday has now seen us slip down to fourth place in the league table and we should look ahead to Motherwell on Friday night with an eye on regaining second spot – at least for 24 hours. Fir Park has never been a great hunting ground for the club but Motherwell didn’t appear high on confidence themselves during yesterday’s defeat at Tynecastle.
Looking back at Saturday’s trip to Ross County, the manager was forced to make a change from his previous starting 11 with Gary Deegan having been ruled out with a broken jaw he sustained when out socialising with team-mates. It would be fair to say the central midfielder has brought a strong presence to the club since his arrival, both on and off the park. Suspension and injuries are part and parcel of the game but when incidents occur outwith your control, these are things that cannot be accounted for. Nevertheless, it will still be hugely frustrating for the manager to lose a player at such cost.
Unfortunately, the nature of professional football today means the choice of a sociable location must be selected very carefully. Irrespective of the circumstances regarding the incident, I am sure Fenlon will have put a code of discipline in place to reduce the chances of such incidents from happening again. This is exactly the reasons why I have spoken about the importance of putting points on the board early as the loss of key personnel will be felt wholeheartedly throughout the side.
Away from Hibs, the national side’s flaws have certainly come under scrutiny in the past week or so, a World Cup campaign in tatters only four games in and the next realistic opportunity to qualify for a major tournament not even on the horizon. However, I don’t believe the problem lies solely with Scotland. I think there needs to be some serious consideration for all of the Home Nations in wake of the performances we are seeing on the international stage. There is no quick-fix solution and for me, there has been a slow decline in our game over the past 15 or 20 years. The free spirit on show has sadly disappeared and has been replaced by robotic formations and tactical awareness. For example, sitting in and trying to hold on to a 1-0 lead is the wrong way forward.
My own experiences from a European tie against Anderlecht made me appreciate just how far behind we are with our knowledge of the game. The endless possession they managed to retain proved so draining for us that night, and were ready to seize upon an opportunity in front of goal when the moment arrived. But this development of youth cannot be taught at the ages of 18 or 19 and must be implemented a lot earlier if we are to ever modify the game in this country for the better.
We have heard on a number of occasions on how the SFA are creating new methods in hope of developing our younger players to a more competent standard. Where is this evidence to suggest the models we have in place are going to pay off? This is an argument which has been rumbling on for more than ten years and do we sit here any better in 2012? Group A of World Cup qualification for Brazil in two years’ time would suggest not.