BEN Williams today didn’t pull his punches in the wake of Hibs’ shock Scottish Communities League Cup defeat by Queen of the South, admitting Pat Fenlon’s players had taken their Second Division opposition too lightly.
The big goalkeeper was left helpless as first-half goals from Nicky Clark, son of former Hearts striker and manager Sandy, and substitute Gavin Reilly, gave the Palmerston Park men a night to remember.
But it was one to forget for the Capital side as they found themselves run ragged by a team bossed by ex-Tynecastle star Allan Johnston, the humiliation bringing signs of a hoped for revival at Easter Road following decent results against Hearts, St Mirren and St Johnstone to a shuddering halt.
There had been, Williams agreed, an apparent improvement but, even so, he and his team-mates couldn’t expect just to turn up in Dumfries and put on a show. He said: “You have to really put in hard work to get anything out of the game. No-one can put his hand up and say they did everything right and were focused for the game.
“We should not have been beaten by a lower division side. It does happen but if you put in the right amount of work and right quality of play, it won’t. But to a man it was a bad performance, we did not do the basics right, we did not put enough hard work in and we were beaten by a better side. That should never have happened.”
The second-round tie was Hibs’ first taste of cup action since their crushing defeat by arch-rivals Hearts in the final of the William Hill Scottish Cup, that Hampden demolition leaving everyone connected with the Easter Road club devastated and requiring a rebuilding of the trust between team and their disillusioned supporters who had already witnessed two seasons of struggle at the wrong end of the SPL.
The Doonhamers’ victory and the nature of it will undoubtedly have knocked that process off track, at least for a while. And the early exit from a competition which Fenlon had claimed only 24 hours earlier his side were capable of winning has cut off a precious revenue source, Hibs’ share of a 2658 gate hardly going to help the manager in his quest to further strengthen a squad which, on the evidence of Tuesday night, remains short on quality.
Fenlon chose the trip south to shake up his side, resting skipper James McPake entirely while David Wotherspoon, Eoin Doyle and Alan Maybury, all regulars so far this season, dropped to the bench, making way for first appearances of the campaign for Sean O’Hanlon, Pa Kujabi and Callum Booth. All three did little to enhance their reputations while Shefki Kuqi looked laboured although, in fairness to the veteran Finnish hitman, he rarely received the sort of service upon which he might thrive.
Williams though, insisted the changes made by Fenlon had little if any bearing on the game’s outcome. He said: “James is a quality player. He has an influence, but football is a squad game, not just solely about individuals. We had players on the pitch to put in the performance that was needed to win the game and progress in the cup and that’s what we have not done.
“The manager said what he needed to say but no-one was pleased with their performance, all the lads were disappointed, more so for the coaching staff and the fans who travelled all the way down there, paid good money and had to go home with nothing to show for it.”
Williams’ frustration was clear to see during the match, the 28-year-old berating his team-mates at each of the goals. He said: “I just thought we were sloppy. They were avoidable goals but we have not done the basics. If you stop crosses you stop shots and they do not score, simple as. Then, as the game goes on, pressure builds on them and that’s when you look to win the game.
“That’s what is the most frustrating thing because that’s what we had done particularly well in our last two games, getting the basics right and having a platform to build on.”
Nevertheless, Williams expressed the hope that this feckless performance will prove to be a one-off, well aware Fenlon’s players can’t afford a repeat when they travel to face Celtic on Saturday.
He said: “Hopefully this is a kick up the backside. But we certainly cannot dwell on it come Saturday. By then we’ll have done some work on where we have gone wrong but first and foremost to a man we have to turn up and be prepared to put in a shift. We’ll be playing a quality side so we need to make sure we turn up, put in a solid defensive show and go from there.”