Alan MAYBURY today insisted he and his Easter Road team-mates won’t suffer a hangover in the wake of their shock exit from the Scottish Communities League Cup at the hands of Second Division Queen of the South.
The defeat, of course, won’t be forgotten but, the experienced defender claimed Pat Fenlon’s players can’t afford to keep beating themselves up over the events of midweek but instead are intent on reproducing the form which sees them travel to Celtic Park tomorrow for a “top-of-the-table” clash.
Only goal difference separates Hibs from the Hoops, a scenario most would have thought highly unlikely even a fortnight ago when the Edinburgh club made the journey to Paisley for a top-versus-bottom encounter with St Mirren. But the Hibees knocked the Buddies off their perch and, with victory over St Johnstone, fired themselves up to the lofty height they occupy today.
And, Maybury insists it is how they have moved into that position – albeit only four SPL matches have been played – which Fenlon’s side should be concentrating on rather than continuing to dwell on the upset at Palmerston Park.
The 34-year-old said: “Tuesday night wasn’t great for a lot of reasons but sometimes it’s a wake-up call, a reality check which lets you know exactly where you are and not to get carried away with things.
“We have to re-focus and, if we are not right for tomorrow, weakneses will be exposed but what we have to concentrate on is the league form and how we have done well in the last couple of games.”
Fenlon professed to being “disgusted” at Hibs’ performance in Dumfries but, Maybury reasoned, it was the sort of night every player has experienced at some stage in their career, recalling how during his time at Tynecastle, Hearts found themselves 4-0 down to Falkirk, in the First Division at the time, by half-time in a Scottish Cup tie.
The Hibs boss also made the point that less fuss was likely to be made of League Cup holders Kilmarnock and Ross County being knocked out by Stenhousemuir and Raith Rovers respectively – Dundee making their exit at the hands of Queens Park the following evening – an observation with which Maybury entirely agreed.
But, he argued, that was probably more down to Hibs’ standing within the Scottish game. The former Leeds United, Leicester City, Aberdeen and St Johnstone star said: “I think we’ve all been on the receiving end a few times in games we’ve been expect to win.
“Since I’ve come to Hibs what I’ve enjoyed and been excited about is the size of the club, the stature and the interest in it.
“These are the clubs you want to play for. There’s an expectation and that’s why I wanted to come here. It’s brilliant, but when you don’t produce or you are on the end of something like Tuesday night you have to deal with the backlash. It’s all part and parcel of playing for a club like this.”
However, Maybury insisted that constantly going over what went wrong against the Doonhamers would serve no useful purpose. He said: “We have to separate the two things. We are out of the Cup and there’s nothing we can now do about it. We are back in league action tomorrow, our league form has been decent without getting carried away but if you let the Cup game hang around it could drag you down. “We have to take out of it what you must and draw a line under it. We spoke about it after the game when it was fresh, what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable at this club. We dealt with it there and then and had a chat yesterday about some stuff but we can’t have people moping about.”
In stark contrast to Hibs’ setback, Neil Lennon’s players will be going into tomorrow’s match on a high having secured their place in the group stage of the Champions League with their comprehensive 4-0 aggregate triumph over Swedish side Helsingborgs.
But, while welcoming the boost their success will give Scottish football, Maybury insisted Fenlon’s players had to concentrate on looking after themselves, pointing out the strength in depth Celtic have means it’s hard to predict their starting line-up even if Lennon claimed it was a “minor miracle” the Hoops had progressed to the lucrative stage of the competition given how “small” his squad actually was. Maybury said: “It’s great for Scottish football they’ve done it. But tomorrow it is about us getting back to the level of performance that is acceptable. The manager spoke about their strength in depth, the players they have and that they could change things but, whatever side they put out, they are at home and it will be a strong team so we are going to have to be on our game to match them.
“I can see where Neil Lennon is coming from in regard to his squad, when you compare it to what they are going to be up against in the Champions League but I think any other manager in the SPL would bite your hand off for what he has.”
Although he has been to Celtic Park with Hearts, Aberdeen and St Johnstone, Maybury knows the game plan won’t be any different as he heads there for the first time in a green-and white-shirt. He said: “You have to make sure you stay in the game, that hasn’t changed over the years. You stay in the game but you have to go and play, be brave, hope for that little bit of luck and take your chances when you get them. It’s going to be a difficult day for us, but what we are focusing on is getting our level of performance back to where it was rather than what happened Tuesday night.”