Isaiah Osbourne today admitted even he was surprised at how he managed to keep going for almost the entire 90 minutes at East End Park, having enjoyed just two training sessions in five weeks.
The midfield powerhouse charged up and down the pitch for all but the final five minutes against Dunfermline, helping secure a precious win over the SPL’s basement side, one which opened the gap at the bottom between Hibs and the Pars to four points.
It was a performance which stunned boss Pat Fenlon, the former Aston Villa star’s first game since early December, prompting the Irishman to describe Osbourne’s contribution as “fantastic.”
But now the 24-year-old is aiming to compete to the absolute final whistle against St Johnstone tomorrow as the Edinburgh side aim to clock up a third successive win to confirm that their season is, at long last, is up-and-running.
Having been sidelined by an abductor muscle problem, Osbourne revealed how he only knew the day before the trip to Fife he’d be playing, insisting he had no qualms about making his return in a match of such importance.
He said: “It was actually a problem which had been ongoing for about two months but during the Rangers game at Ibrox I heard a ‘crack’ as I made a tackle, it seems the impact caused it to flare up.
“It was disappointing to find myself out because I’d felt I was just really getting into my stride, that my performances were beginning to pick up.
“Like every player I just want to play in every game so it was frustrating to find myself out, particularly when the results weren’t going for us.
“I actually only returned to training last Thursday and had another session on the Friday when the gaffer asked me how I felt because he was considering playing me. I told him I felt fine, that there wasn’t any pain.
“It was a big match to return in but, to be honest, I didn’t think about what it meant because I go into every game not thinking about winning but wanting to win.
“I didn’t go into it with any target in mind as to how long I might play, there was no target such as 60 or 75 minutes, just to go as long as I possibly could.
“I know I made a slow start trying to get to the pace of the game which was very high tempo but I’m naturally pretty fit.”
Confirmation Osbourne was back came with one searing 60-yard run culminating in a shot which Pars goalkeeper Iain Turner just managed to push aside, the fact his return wasn’t marked by a first goal for Hibs being his only disappointment of the day.
He said: “I think the manager was getting a bit concerned, he kept asking me how I was feeling and I kept telling him I was okay. Eventually I got a bit of cramp and they decided to get me off.
“I have to admit I was quite surprised to find out I’d played 85 minutes although it felt to me as if we were playing extra-time by that stage. I thought that was a pretty good shift and the fact we won made it all the better.
“Now I’ve had a full week’s training and I’m feeling good and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Having won at Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline, Fenlon will now be looking for his players to improve their home form, the statistics making miserable reading with Hibs having recorded just one SPL win at home this season – by coincidence against St Johnstone.
That game was won 3-2, the exact same scoreline as the victories enjoyed in Fife over the course of the past fortnight but tomorrow Osbourne is hoping, naturally, for another triumph, but this time without a nail-biting finale.
He said: “Of course I’d happily accept another 3-2 win right at this minute but it would be nice to think we don’t have to score three to win every game. Three more tomorrow without conceding two would be good but the most important thing is getting the three points whatever the final score might be.
“We had a terrific support at Dunfermline last week, people have said there were about 4000 Hibs fans there and all the boys really appreciated the backing they gave us throughout the game. When Dunfermline scored first I have to admit there was the thought of ‘here we go again’ at the back of the mind but the boys did really well to get ourselves ahead and then go again for the winner after they’d equalised.
“The one thing we do have in the side are goalscorers.
“Leigh Griffiths was superb against Dunfermline, Garry O’Connor, like myself, has been frustrated by injury in recent weeks, but came off the bench to score a great goal while Eoin Doyle’s record speaks for itself and he’s already off the mark for Hibs.
“Ideally, we’d like to be doing it for the fans every time at Easter Road but now, hopefully, our performances will pick up. I’m not so concerned about getting away from Dunfermline, we want to start climbing the table by reeling in the clubs immediately ahead of us.”