Terry Butcher today revealed Hibs skipper Liam Craig had accepted being benched for the trip to Rugby Park because he didn’t feel he deserved to walk straight back into the side.
Craig had missed the victory over Ross County, a result which ended a run of five winless games for the Easter Road side, after being hit by a one-match ban as a new central midfield partnership of Tom Taiwo and Sam Stanton came up with the goals to defeat the Staggies.
However, although Craig was available to face Kilmarnock Butcher stuck by Taiwo and Stanton as he named the same 11 players, a decision which, the manager insisted, met with the full approval of his captain.
He said: “I’d made my decision midweek but I spoke to Liam on Friday and he said he didn’t have a problem with it. He did not feel he deserved to be in the team as the boys had done really well and he felt his own form before the suspension had not been great.
“Liam’s an honest guy, a tremendous professional and he knows if he gets back into the team he has to work hard to stay there. It’s great competition for places and when you see young players like Tom and Sam doing very well then it gives you not so much a headache as a nice option.”
Craig did make a late appearance in Ayrshire, replacing Danny Handling for the final 20 minutes as Hibs sought to turn their second-half superiority into a win only to be forced into settling for a draw, Danny Haynes first goal for the club having cancelled out Rory McKenzie’s earlier opener for the home side.
Today Butcher admitted it was very much a case of two points dropped, the Capital outfit having passed up the chance to leapfrog St Johnstone, who lost at home to his old club Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and into the Scottish Premiership’s top six. The draw did, however, haul Hibs level with the Saints, although the Perth club remain in the top half of the table thanks to a better goal difference.
But the Hibs boss believes the sense of disappointment his players felt was an indication of rising morale with all eyes now on Friday night’s visit of Dundee United. He said: “We felt it was two points dropped which, in a way, is progress. There’s a confidence about the boys more than before and certainly the win against Ross County has boosted morale enormously.
“We could have been in the top six, but it’s another point towards that with another home game coming up. There’s a ‘what if’ scenario, what if we’d done this or that, but we have played worse than we did against Kilmarnock and won. We thought we did enough to have won the game – apart from putting the ball into the back of the net.”