Ian Murray today labelled flying Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey the fastest player in the SPL and the main threat to Hibs’ chances of gaining three league points this weekend.
The Hibs skipper expects the wide open pitch at Easter Road to bring the best out of Humphrey on Motherwell’s right flank when the Steelmen come to Edinburgh on Saturday.
Murray identified as key to Hibs’ game plan the ability of extra reinforcements to help out whoever is tasked with marking the Jamaican wideman, most likely Paul Hanlon at left back.
“To keep the game as tight as possible with these players – that’s what you try and do,” said Murray, who is expected to line up at centre back after undergoing physiotherapy for a back injury. “You run the risk of going too tight and the ball over the top kills you. Chris Humphrey has got that much pace that, no matter how quick you are, he is quicker. It’s the case with everyone else in the league.
“If you go too tight to him, you leave all that grass in behind you. Or, do you stand back off him and let him run at you when he’s quicker than you. It’s a Catch-22 and you just have to hope that you get the balance right.
“You might get the balance right half the time – a full-back could stop him ten times, but he could get past you twice and set up two goals, and it looks like you’ve not done your job. Normally, a player of his speed will get past you, to be quite honest, and that’s when you need a little bit of help from your covering midfielders, your centre-halves. It’s a test for whoever’s playing out there.
“He’s the danger man for Motherwell, no doubt. If you can stop him, it does limit their supply a little bit, but we do know they’ve got other options.”
Murray, 30, admits that the unconfined environs of Easter Road could play into the hands of such pacey players, but says Hibs will look to make an early impression against Motherwell as they bid to leap from tenth in the SPL to sixth place.
He explained: “The pitch is pretty big, so teams that play with wide men have more spaces to run into.
“Plus, it is the case sometimes where away teams sit in and wait to counter-attack, and if they have got that speed, it’s easier for them.
“If we go out there early-doors and stamp our authority on the game and not start badly, get into the ascendancy, that will give us a better chance.”