Hibs’ defeat debrief was not a crisis meeting

Michael Nelson trudges off after defeat by Raith Rovers

Michael Nelson trudges off after defeat by Raith Rovers

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Monday morning, East Mains, team meeting.

Exactly what you would expect following Hibs being ushered out of the Scottish Cup by Raith Rovers, a post mortem to dissect not only the defeat but, to quote boss Terry Butcher, the “unacceptable” performance during that 3-2 result.

But such a scenario was nothing out of the norm, as defender Michael Nelson revealed today. The gathering of manager, his backroom staff and players being far from the “crisis”category under which it might have classified by some.

Bitter disappointment did, of course, cast a shadow over proceedings, but, according to Nelson, once the events of 48 hours earlier had been fully discussed, the entire focus concentrated on this Saturday’s Scottish Premiership clash with Ross County.

An opportunity for Nelson and his team-mates to redeem themselves? Not so, insisted the 33-year-old, who said: “It’s not a case of winning to put right what went wrong because you are never going to be able to put that right. It’s gone now, it’s in the history books.

“We were beaten, we can’t affect that. All we can affect is the here and now. Likewise, we can’t affect anything after the Ross County game, although we can put ourselves in a good frame of mind for the following match.”

Living for the “here and now” is very much a philosophy pursued by Butcher and his assistant Maurice Malpas, a Monday morning sit-down with their players to discuss the previous Saturday’s match – win, lose or draw – before it’s dismissed and attention turns to the next challenge.

Nelson said: “It’s part ofbeing a football player. There are highs and lows and obviously you want to experience more of the highs than the lows, but sometimes you have to go through the low points to get to the highs and appreciate them all the more.

“Saturday was a big disappointment for us, but it’s gone. We spoke about it on Monday morning, got it out of our system and refocused on the next game. It wasn’t a crisis meeting or anything like that, just what we do every Monday morning. It’s something the manager and Maurice have done in the past at Inverness Caley and other clubs, and it started here from the first game we played since they came in.

“We go through the game, talk about things. The good things, the bad things, things we can improve on, things that went well; and that’s it regardless of whether we’ve won, lost or drawn.

“Then we go out training and from that minute on everything is geared towards the next game. We don’t look back because you are not going to achieve anything by sitting worrying about the game you have played on the Saturday come Wednesday or Thursday. You can’t go back and change anything. Once the Monday meeting is out of the way it’s gone, forgotten and we move on.”

Nelson accepted, though, that there were few positives to be retrieved from the aftermath of the cup exit. He said: “We spoke about bits and pieces of the game and we’re working to make sure what went wrong does not go wrong again and what we can do to make things more positive. It’s a fine balance trying to eradicate the mistakes and to concentrate on the positives going forward.”

The defeat by Raith made it four on the spin for Hibs with ten goals conceded in the last three games, statistics which, inevitably, have provoked a furious reaction on fans’ messageboards, with some beginning to worry over the threat of Butcher’s side being dragged down towards the play-off spot – although the target remains to make it into the top six before the split in just nine games’ time.

Nelson, however, insisted he pays no attention to such outpourings. He said: “I never go on them [messageboards]. You are never going to please everyone regardless of what you are doing. You cannot control what people are saying, they all have their opinions.

“For some people the glass is half empty, for others it’s half full. Some are looking down, some are looking up. The aim, of course, is to get in there, but, as I have said, there’s nothing we can affect but this Saturday. We can’t look at future fixtures and try to predict where we are going to get points, you only look at the upcoming match and aim to get the three points.

“If you do that then you can focus on the following game and try to do the same again, no-one is allowed to look too far forward. Everyone is on the same page this week, focusing on Ross County. We don’t look back and that applies even when we have had a good result. That’s the mentality and structure the manager and Maurice have brought in.”

Nelson and his team-mates will approach the visit of the Staggies with a single-minded determination, adamant that the fact Hibs have beaten Derek Adams’ side in their last two encounters –both in Dingwall – won’t be allowed to enter their minds.

Nelson, who claimed his first goal for Hibs on the Boxing Day encounter between the clubs, said: “You can look back and think about what you did well and how you beat them, but this is not going to be the same game as the previous matches.

“Ross County are not going to be the same team because there has been a massive turnaround in personnel, while we have also brought in some new players.”

While a win would help appease an anxious Hibs support, Nelson was adamant each and every point gained in this league had to be fought over tooth and nail.

He said: “I think Celtic apart it’s very much of a muchness. Everyone is capable of beating everyone else. There’s no ‘gimmes’ in this league.

“You’ve seen it every week of the season. People will look at certain fixtures and say ‘that’s a banker’, but then there’s a shock. I think that results in everyone thinking they have a good chance of getting the three points – and we certainly go into every game believing we can do that.”