MATT DOHERTY had a nightmare the last time Hibs faced Motherwell – so he’s desperate for boss Pat Fenlon to hand him the chance to make amends when Hibs take on the Steelmen again this weekend.
The young Irishman admits that his two mistakes cost Hibs the points when they travelled to Fir Park in February and would love to wipe out the memory of that match.
A hat-trick from Michael Higdon, two of those goals coming from the penalty spot after slips from Doherty, helped Well to a 4-3 victory, and it’s a game the defender will never forget for all the wrong reasons.
Hibs had taken the lead through Isaiah Osbourne early in the game, only for them to concede a penalty when Doherty’s wayward header left Graham Stack with no other option than to bring Henrik Ojamaa down inside the box. Higdon converted from 12 yards before Jamie Murphy put his side in front.
Doherty then went some way to recovering the situation when, from George Francomb’s corner, he fired past Darren Randolph at the second attempt after his initial header had been blocked.
However, Higdon put his side back in front with an acrobatic effort with 20 minutes remaining, and the day went from bad to worse for Doherty when he conceded Hibs’ second penalty of the night for bringing Ojamaa crashing down again, Higdon this time claiming his hat-trick from the spot.
Although Ivan Sproule hit a late goal it was little consolation for Doherty, who recalled: “We played against them away from home earlier in the season and that was a different experience altogether. We were a goal up in the first half and probably finding it relatively easy at the point, but then it just exploded in the second half.
“We ended up losing the match 4-3, and if it hadn’t been for my mistakes we probably would have won the game. I had a bit of a nightmare and we conceded two penalties because of it. But we’ve got to take the positives and the fact that we managed to score three goals against them should give us some encouragement going into Sunday in any case.
“Motherwell are a good team and they’re fighting for second place, never mind third in the league, so we know how difficult it will be.”
Doherty has been in and out of the Hibs side since his arrival from Wolves in January, but played in his favoured right-back position against Inverness last weekend, having also featured at centre-half and left-back during his spell at Easter Road so far.
Having had to wait for his chance on the right of the defence, he’s hoping that he did enough in the win over Caley to convince Fenlon to go with him again when Stuart McCall’s side are the visitors: “I got back into the team in the last couple of weeks, and it is obviously more enjoyable when you’re involved, rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for your chance.
“But it’s a great place to be involved. The rest of the lads are great and it is always a pleasure to go into training.
“I have played centre back for Hibs and then I was moved to right-back, which is my main position. Now that I have been involved there I want to stay in the right-back slot and hopefully I will get a chance to do that.”
The 3-2 win over Inverness last weekend has taken Hibs six points above bottom spot, but Doherty believes results like that are also what brings a group of players together to make a team.
With so many loan stars in their ranks – Doherty was one of eight players who joined the club in January on deals until the end of the season – it would only be naturally if that group of players took time to gel. However, Doherty believes they’re already well on their way and continued: “There is a real mix in our dressing room. Because there are so many of us on loan to the club right now, everyone has got different experience under their belts and has probably been at a few clubs as well.
“Everyone in there is pretty confident in how they feel and what they want; there’s no group of people looking down on you because they think they’re more experienced or whatever. Everyone is just in one big unit and happy to work together to make sure the team stays up. It’s quite a good environment when you consider that a lot of us have only come into the team this season.
“A lot of us arrived at the start of the season and many went straight into the starting line-up. We started off well and managed to get a few results under our belts before it all started to fall away. But I think that everyone has gelled well now and we’re really starting to play like a team – and that’s got to be expected when you have so many new faces.
“At the end of the day, we’re all professionals and we’re paid to play in a team. It’s up to us to work hard to make sure that happens.
“Occasions like Sunday just bring us even closer together as a unit. The bus journey home could have been three-and-a-half hours of hell if we had lost, but instead it just flew past because we managed to get the win and everyone was happy and cheerful on the way back down the road.”
Although the defender was pleased to be involved, he was far from happy with the first-half performance against Terry Butcher’s side: “We didn’t play well in the first half at all; in fact, I was surprised that we managed to go in with the scoreline still at nil-all at the break, and I thought our goalkeeper [Graham Stack} played a massive part in that and really kept us in the game with a good few saves.
“We turned it around, though, and when Leigh Griffiths got the winner I thought that we deserved it.
“We needed the result so badly because we knew that Dunfermline had lost the day before and that we could open up the gap a bit with the right result. Thankfully we got it and now we have just got to keep it going.
“It’s coming to the end of the season, there are not that many games left and there are a lot of bad things being written in the press by former players or whatever, so we’re taking quite a bit of stick.
“People have been saying that we don’t have the fighting spirit that we need to stay up in this league, but I think that on Sunday we showed that we do.
“I can see why people have been criticising us because the results haven’t been good and neither have a lot of the results, but we came back from a goal down to win the game and hopefully things are starting to turn around for us now.
“It was so satisfying when the final whistle went and we knew we had done enough to take all three points.”
Doherty was quick to praise goalkeeper Stack for the part that he played in the victory over Terry Butcher’s men.
The Hibs stopper pulled off at least three top-drawer blocks in the opening 45 minutes at the Caledonian Stadium – most notably denying Jonny Hayes early in the game when the attacker looked odds-on to score.
“I think that we would have been out of the game by half-time if it hadn’t been for Graham.
“If he hadn’t played as well as he did then we could have been two or three goals down inside the opening 45 minutes and that would have left us with a mountain to climb.”