Aberdeen inflicted our first home loss of the season on Saturday in a match that I always felt would be decided by the odd goal. With Celtic suffering a shock home defeat at the hands of Inverness, we failed to take advantage and reclaim the top spot in the SPL which is a huge disappointment.
One positive we can take from the Aberdeen game was the amount of goalscoring chances we created, a combination of a quite terrific display from goalkeeper Jamie Langfield coupled with some real missed opportunities denying us the goal we needed. But the little mistakes we are making at the moment are being punished and we must improve on that front.
The weekend’s defeat to the Dons is not ideal preparation ahead of our Scottish Cup tie with our fiercest rivals on Sunday, however, we all know that predicting the outcome of an Edinburgh derby is an incredibly difficult task with the form book going completely out of the window.
As great as putting together a winning run can be, a couple of defeats are always never too far away if you get caught up in the success. The players face a stiff challenge to rediscover their winning form going into the weekend’s encounter where we will face a fired up Hearts side. Their off-the-field problems are well documented but this is sure to have made them mentally stronger as a group. We must be ready for whatever they throw at us and ensure we show commitment and desire this time around.
These fixtures are always heated occasions at the best of times and I am sure Sunday will prove to be no different. This is just the sort of match you want after suffering back-to-back defeats. Pat Fenlon and his players will be feeling deflated having failed to take any points from our previous two fixtures but we can’t go around feeling sorry for ourselves. We must regroup and concentrate on the task in hand which is sealing our passage into the next round of the cup.
Cup fever has once again spread throughout the city and this is a fixture all Hibs and Hearts supporters relish. Cup football carries a different kind of pressure to the league campaign where a good team performance counts for nothing if your name isn’t in the hat for the next round of the draw. Luck can play a huge role in these kinds of games but this is what makes the tie that more exciting. The usual banter from the stands between both sets of supporters will ensue with the visiting fans keen to prompt our memories of the last time we met in a Scottish Cup fixture.
The memory of our display at Hampden in May continues to hurt even today and I have little doubt we will be reminded time and time again by the Gorgie faithful. But that’s football and we have to accept what happened and move on. The league match between the sides at Easter Road back in August was a tight affair (1-1) but the players showed they would not be outfought and physically dominated by their rivals.
I touched on the restructuring of our leagues within my piece last week and further developments have revealed there is a mutual agreement between the clubs that a change is needed. I believe amending the format of our cup competitions is an avenue we should pursue as this would go a long way to giving back those special days for the supporters. Reintroducing the group stages to the League Cup is an idea I am keen on but trying to accommodate the additional fixtures with this kind of format could prove to be a stumbling block.
We now turn our attention to Wednesday night where we travel to Perth to face St Johnstone. Our opponents have already shown they are well equipped to cause us more than one or two problems. However, we haven’t become a bad team overnight and can head north looking to take all three points that will get us back on track.