Lennon hopes Hibs will learn from shock defeat in Paisley

Efe Ambrose and James Keatings trudge off at full-time
Efe Ambrose and James Keatings trudge off at full-time
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Hibs boss Neil Lennon today claimed a 2-0 defeat by the Championship’s basement side St Mirren may be no bad thing for his title-chasing players.

Lennon readily admitted that Saints fully deserved the win two goals from Cypriot defender Stelios Demetriou had brought them, but questioned just why his own team had turned in such a dire performance.

He said: “We were poor. We were not at it. It’s our first defeat in three months and, while we have not won in four games in the league, I’m not going to be too hard on them. It was a poor night, the better team won.

“You have to congratulate St Mirren but we were not ready. We had given them all the warnings beforehand, that this was a team fighting for their lives while we are going for the title. They should be hungry but there was only one team that deserved to win.

“We’ll be in on Thursday but, while we can analyse it to death, it won’t change anything; we have to get ready for Saturday.”

That, of course was a reference to the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Ayr United and Lennon hoped thoughts of repeating last year’s historic win isn’t playing on the mind of his squad. He said: “I hope they are not focusing on the cup but it looked like it. St Mirren were the hungrier team, won all the battles that had to be won, they had more energy, more urgency – that’s how I send my teams out to play.

“They have to learn. I don’t think the majority of them have been in this position [of going for a league title] before. You can tell them but they have to experience it.

“Maybe this was a good thing, to lose a game in that manner because – and I hate that term ‘wake-up call’ but hopefully it will galvanise us to compete and do a lot better.

“I don’t know if it’s complacency or if some of them cannot do it but every game from here on in is going to be like that. Teams are going to get about them and you have to be ready to do the nuts and bolts of the game.”

Lennon believed his side didn’t begin to show the urgency required until veteran striker Grant Holt was introduced to the action, the 35-year-old having started on the bench as he was suffering from a hamstring problem and his manager didn’t want to risk losing him for five or six weeks.

He said: “The rest of them have to take a good look at themselves after that performance but other than that they have had a pretty good season.”

Saints boss Jack Ross was understandably delighted, describing his side’s performance as “probably” their best of the season, particularly given the calibre of the opposition. And, he revealed, he’d taken a gamble on signing match-winner Demetriou.

“We spent an enormous amount of time in the build-up to the January transfer window looking at options because we needed to. Stelios came over for a week so we could see him, there was an element of a gamble and he’s been great.”