Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams today admitted he’d been left scratching his head in disbelief as he tried to comprehend how he’d ended up on the losing side against Aberdeen, having not been called upon to make a save in the entire 90 minutes.
However, as disappointed as he and his team-mates were to lose for the second weekend in succession and with it seeing their unbeaten home record for the season come to an end, Williams insisted Hibs’ performance was such that Pat Fenlon’s stars should have few worries as they contemplate two massive games in the space of the next five days. Tomorrow night Fenlon and his players head for McDiarmid Park and St Johnstone, knowing the results of the midweek round of matches could see them again at the top of the SPL table or take a tumble down the rankings before facing Capital rivals Hearts in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. That fixture, of course, offers them the chance of some degree of revenge for the nightmare which befell the club at Hampden back in May.
The visit of Hearts has been the main topic of conversation since the draw was made and will undoubtedly overshadow both Hibs’ visit to Perth and Hearts’ home clash with SPL leaders Celtic but, as far as Williams and his team-mates are concerned, the Jambos can wait as they turn their full attention on picking up three more precious league points.
Williams admitted the sight of Hibs losing back-to-back matches for the first time this season will undoubtedly have some questioning whether the Easter Road club’s bubble has burst, but the 30-year-old argued that the evidence from the weekend setback would suggest that is not the case.
“You want to win every game but when you don’t it doesn’t mean the bubble has suddenly burst and you are on a bad run,” he said. “If you were at Easter Road for the Aberdeen game I think you’d have gone away scratching your head as to how they got the three points.
“It’s not something you can dwell on or be disappointed by too much. We have to be ready to go again tomorrow night and if we can play as well as we did and create the chances we did, then we’ll be in a good position.
“I thought we put in a very good team performance against Aberdeen, I thought we were fantastic from front to back and to have dominated the game as much as we did and to come away with nothing was very disappointing. The lads put in some real hard work and there are a hell of a lot of positives we can take from the game.”
Williams admitted it was particularly tough on him to be denied a clean sheet in a match where he was virtually a spectator for long spells while, at the other end, Jamie Langfield was being peppered with shots from Hibs’ top scorer, Leigh Griffiths, which forced him into a string of notable saves, although possibly his best came from a first-half effort from Eoin Doyle which the Aberdeen goalkeeper just managed to fingertip to safety.
Williams said: “I had a couple of crosses, a couple of punches, but not a save to make. It was a fairly quiet afternoon for me while Leigh and Eoin created havoc throughout the 90 minutes, but Jamie had a good game and credit to him for that. He made some good saves which kept them in the game, but I thought we created enough clear-cut chances not only to win the game but probably another one besides.”
Although it had looked for much of the game that it would only be a matter of time before Hibs made the breakthrough, the home fans were stunned as the Dons caught them cold with a sucker punch, Johnny Hayes’ low cross breaking off Alan Maybury and falling into the path of Niall McGinn, who maintained his recent impressive scoring record by slipping the ball beyond the helpless Williams.
The keeper said: “He took his goal well. His touch took him away from three or four defenders and he was through pretty much with a wide open goal in front of him and he supplied a good finish.”
Making the result all the more galling for Fenlon and his players was the discovery afterwards that Celtic had been beaten at home by Inverness Caley and that victory would have sent them back to the top of the SPL table once again. Instead, they slipped a place, as Aberdeen leapfrogged them on goal difference.
The cost of losing to Aberdeen following an insipid performance at Dundee the week before became more evident, with today’s standings showing that despite those disappointments, Hibs remain just a single point behind champions and current leaders Celtic, leaving the Hibees to wonder just what might have been. However, as disappointing as losing a match in which they were surely worthy of at least a point – although Fenlon insisted even that would have been “a travesty” given Hibs’ dominance – Williams insisted he wasn’t as crestfallen as he was following events at Dens Park.
He added: “When you have played as well as we did against Aberdeen yet come away with nothing you have to hold your hands up and say it hasn’t been your day, but when you go to Dundee and don’t perform anywhere near the levels you have set for yourselves and are beaten 3-1, however dubious two of the goals might have been, that’s a totally different matter.
“Of course, these two results have been bitterly disappointing, but we’ll be ready for tomorrow night.”