Clean sheets are the be all and end all as far as goalkeepers and defenders are concerned. But for Hibs stopper Liam Fontaine that’s not enough – he wants to get among the goals at the other end.
So far Alan Stubbs’ players have been impressive at the back, Calum Gallagher’s strike for St Mirren last week being the first goal they’ve conceded from open play in the Championship so far this season.
It also brought a run of five straight shut-outs to an end and although Martin Boyle grabbed an equaliser the fact Hibs were unable to find a winner against the Buddies brought a reaction from some fans akin to that which would greet a run of miserable form.
But as disappointing as it may have been, Fontaine insisted the result should be kept in context, pointing out that he and his team-mates remain on a pretty decent run, one which included a stunning League Cup victory over Premiership leaders Aberdeen. The 29-year-old, however, did concede the exertions against the Dons only a few days earlier had taken a toll on them, the Saints game being their third in eight days.
Now, though, after a full week to prepare, Fontaine insists the Easter Road outfit are totally refreshed and ready for tomorrow’s trip to face Queen of the South where, he anticipates, the pressure will be on James Fowler’s players as the home team to show a touch more enterprise than exhibited by Saints for whom skipper Jim Goodwin hailed last weekend’s 1-1 draw as a “fantastic point.”
The former Bristol City star said: “Teams that come to Easter Road do tend to sit in and we have to break them down but with Queens being at home the onus might be on them to be a bit more open, to come out and try to score which should create more gaps for us to hopefully exploit.”
The Dumfries outfit did cause Hibs a problem or two last season, winning at Palmerston Park and in Edinburgh and losing only one of their four encounters with Stubbs’ side. However, since then Fowler has lost more than half a team, including midfielder Dan Carmichael who moved to Easter Road in the summer while the likes of Ian McShane, Mark Durnan, Kevin Holt and Gavin Reilly all headed to Scotland’s top flight.
Queens boss Fowler has therefore been forced into a major rebuild of his squad but despite that fact, Fontaine believes they’ll be just as tough to crack, particularly on their artificial pitch, a surface which the Hibs players makes no secret of his dislike.
He said: “I’d expect them to be just as well organised and hard to play against even though they’ve had to make so many changes. But we’re going down there with a strong team and it will be a case of us starting well and looking to put our stamp on the game.
“Some people seemed to treat our draw last week as if it was a defeat but while we were disappointed not to win – we go into every game looking to win it – we are still on a good run and we’ll be going into tomorrow with confidence.
“We’d had a great result in the cup against Aberdeen but that was a different sort of game to St Mirren and it was a big ask to have three games in a week. It was the first goal we’d lost in open play and obviously we are not going to go through a whole season without conceding.
“But as a back four and goalkeeper we pride ourselves on clean sheets. We’ve done pretty well in that regard so far, we’d clocked up five in a row and we’ve had seven already. Obviously we played together last season, we know each other well and now the manager has brought in Darren McGregor. So we have a strong defensive unit and we’re strong going forward.”
And to that end Fontaine, who claimed two goals last season, is desperate to get his name on the scoresheet again. He said: “Keeping clean sheets is what we set out to do and we want to get as many of them as we can, but we do get chances from corners and free-kicks.
“Both Paul Hanlon and I have been very close on a few occasions. It’s frustrating that none have gone in yet but hopefully once one does then that will be the start and we’ll see our names on the scoresheet a bit more often.”
n Hibs’= League Cup quarter-final against Dundee United will be played at Easter Road on Wednesday, November 4, kick-off 7.45 pm.