Graham: Hibs thrive on big games like United clash

Brian Graham, right, is battling for a starting place at Hibs
Brian Graham, right, is battling for a starting place at Hibs
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Hibs boss Neil Lennon rounded on his frontmen following the no-scoring draw against Championship leaders Queen of the South, describing their performance at Palmerston Park as “poor”.

But today striker Brian Graham insisted there was no need to worry, adamant that the goals will come.

Graham had a spell at Sundays opponents, Dundee United, but the move did not work out

Graham had a spell at Sundays opponents, Dundee United, but the move did not work out

The shock of losing to newly promoted part-timers Ayr United and then dropping more vital points in Dumfries has taken the shine off Hibs’ impressive start to the season, ending a run of five straight wins which had threatened to see them open up an early but worrying gap for the chasing pack.

Instead, Lennon’s players now sit a point behind Queens and only three ahead of both Falkirk and Raith Rovers with Dundee United, Sunday’s visitors to the Capital, intent on further closing on the title favourites.

Graham, however, believes the arrival of his old club can see Hibs recover that early season swagger.

He said: “It’s a big game, a big occasion with a big crowd – it will probably be one of the biggest anywhere in Scotland this weekend – and our guys thrive on that sort of atmosphere.

“The crowds at Easter Road have been spectacular, averaging more than 15,000 and they’re giving us tremendous backing.

“They want to see us score goals and we want to hear that roar when we score. When I scored my first goal for the club I got a great roar and I want to hear it again and again.”

That goal was one of four scored against Morton, all four headers and coming from four different players, a performance which suggested there would be plenty more to come.

Since then, however, Hibs have managed just two in their last three games – and one of them came via the penalty spot. Jason Cummings remains the top scorer with eight league goals to his name with the closest to him having each managed just one apiece.

It’s been a pretty miserly return, reinforcing Lennon’s contention that a major reason for Hibs’ promotion push faltering last season was the fact they scored only 59 goals in their 36 league matches.

“He mentioned that to me when I first came in,” admitted Graham, “But listen, the goals will come, definitely.

“With the players we have in that dressing-room we will score goals and I wouldn’t worry too much that we didn’t get one last weekend.”

Graham, however, insisted the burden of finding the opposition net shouldn’t rest only on the shoulders of the frontmen, arguing that finding goals was a collective responsibility for the whole team.

Darren McGregor admitted as much in the wake of the Queens’ result, conceding Hibs should have done more with the 12 corners they’d earned and agreeing defenders like himself should be offering more of a threat in the opposition penalty box.

Graham said: “I think we have been playing well enough to win games, we dominated against Ayr and Queens and if we keep doing what we are doing then the results will come.

“But we have to start creating again, do the basics better and everything will click into place.

“We need to get out into the wide areas, getting crosses into the box. Of course strikers want to score, but it’s not just up to them.

“You can have a striker making an unselfish run for a midfielder coming into the back post, for example. We are a team, we are in it together and to go forward we have to be in it together and as a squad we are.”

Graham, who also scored the opener in the Irn-Bru Cup win over Turriff United, agreed it was a measure of the expectation around Easter Road that suddenly some are finding cause for concern, the 28-year-old insisting: “No-one should forget we won our first five on the bounce. We know what we have to do to get back on the winning trail.

“Last weekend was horrible, down to ten men, the weather was horrendous and although we should still have probably won, we might look back at the end of the season and realise it was a very important point. We have a really good squad and a strong team no matter who is playing or not playing. It’s going to be a long, hard season but we have the players to be able to cope with it.”

Graham reckons Sunday’s match is a Premier League tie in all but name, United, like Hibs, shocked to find themselves playing in the second tier of Scottish football.

The former Ross County striker who signed a two-year deal at the start of this season said: “I don’t think either club would ever have envisaged this, but that’s the way it is and we have to get ourselves back into the top flight.

“Sunday is a Premier League match in the Championship. It’s live on television and with a lunch-time start but I still think there will be another bumper crowd at Easter Road.

“We want to make the ground somewhere other teams fear coming, I know from having played here in the past that it can be an intimidating place.

“But it can also give players coming into a stadium with four big stands and a lovely pitch which is always well maintained a lift as well.”

After a stuttering start to their season Ray McKinnon’s players will arrive in Edinburgh buoyed by last weekend’s 2-1 win over Morton, the side who had put them out of the Betfred Cup only a few days earlier.

Graham said: “I think they are still finding their feet in the Championship. They’re having to adjust to this league and having brought a lot of new players to the club this is probably a bit of a settling in period for them.

“But it is a case of us focusing on our game, making sure we get the job done and the three points won.”

Graham’s own time at Tannadice didn’t work out as he might have hoped. Twenty seven goals for Raith Rovers persuaded former Arabs boss Jackie McNamara to sign him on a two-year deal.

The striker, who began his career with Morton, said: “I only stayed for one. My first season was good, we finished top six and reached the Scottish Cup final.

“But they played a 4-3-2-1 with Nadir Ciftci up front so I was left trying to make an impact from the bench.

“David Goodwillie also came in but he didn’t really play much either.

“I thought I did okay and scored a few goals but I felt I just wasn’t getting enough game time.

“I wanted more regular first-team football so I moved on to St Johnstone.”