Matty Kennedy marked his first start for Hibs with a man-of-the-match performance against Falkirk, but now finds himself the odd man out as Alan Stubbs’ side have hit the winning trail.
A switch in formation, Hibs now operating with a “diamond” in midfield, has helped conjure up a run of eight matches unbeaten in the Championship.
However, it’s a change which has seen winger Kennedy relegated more often than not to the bench, his game time severely restricted.
But as frustrated as the 20-year-old might be, he admits he has little cause to go banging on his manager’s door, well aware of that football adage of there being no ‘i’ in team.
He said: “I enjoyed my first start at Easter Road. I was really pleased. It was the first time I’d done that for a while and, as I was just getting my fitness up, I didn’t expect to do so well. I was actually a bit surprised.”
A cheeky backheeler from Bairns striker Rory Loy saw Peter Houston’s team somehow depart with all three points, despite Hibs dominating for long spells of the game, another five-star performance by former Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald a major reason why Stubbs’ players couldn’t find the net.
Even now, nearly four months on, Kennedy admits he can still hardly believe how that match turned out. He said: “I don’t think I have crossed as many balls in my life. We created a lot of chances, but we just couldn’t take them.
“It wasn’t for the lack of trying but Jamie MacDonald also had a great game which, I’m told, he always seems to do against Hibs.”
Since then, though, Hibs have begun to motor and travel to Falkirk tomorrow aiming to clock up a seventh successive away win. But as the Capital club’s fortunes have taken an upward swing, on-loan Everton youngster Kennedy has found himself a somewhat peripheral figure.
He said: “I’ve not changed. I got the man-of-the match award a few times when I first came to the club, but as we were losing too many goals, the gaffer decided on a change of formation – to play a diamond in the middle of the park.
“It makes it hard for an out-and-out winger like myself, but the switch has steadied the team. And while it’s frustrating for me because I feel I had been doing well, I can understand why he did it.
“At the end of the day, it is all about the team rather than individuals and I can’t really say anything because the team is getting the results. We’re unbeaten in a fair number of games now and that’s a good platform for taking things forward.”
Hibs have also displayed a resilience and determination, qualities many felt had been missing over the past couple of seasons – the way in which they came back to defeat Alloa Athletic in last weekend’s Scottish Cup tie highlighted by the Wasps putting Rangers out of the Petrofac Training Cup, despite having been two goals behind.
Kennedy said: “I don’t think people fully appreciate that it’s hard to go there. They’ve got some very good players used to playing on their artificial pitch, but to lose a goal the way we did and come back to win the game shows why we’ve managed so many victories on the road recently – including games at places like Ross County and Ibrox.
“Going away again tomorrow doesn’t carry any worries for us. If we can play the way we did against Falkirk earlier in the season then I’m sure this time we’ll be coming back with the three points.”
Despite not getting as much game time as he would like, former Kilmarnock kid Kennedy insisted he was enjoying life in Edinburgh and working again with Stubbs, his youth coach at Everton, although, he admitted, the working relationship has subtly changed.
He said: “It’s a bit different because at youth level it’s a bit more relaxed. We’d call him ‘Stubbsy’, but now it’s ‘gaffer’. I’ve had a slip of the tongue a couple of times and called him Stubbsy, but he’s just laughed.
“The boss is obviously someone I know well from being at Goodison, but he’s shown that although he’s brought me up here on loan there’s no favourites when it comes to picking the team.
“Obviously I feel I should have been in the team, but he prefers playing the current formation – it’s working and that’s why I’m on the bench. I know Dominique Malonga is out suspended tomorrow, but I suspect we’ll stick to what has been working.
“But I’m enjoying my time with Hibs. It’s a great club, we’ve got a good bunch of boys and a strong friendship among us, although playing a few more games would make it even better for me.”