A LOOK of incredulity crosses Isaiah Osbourne’s face as he learns Hibs go into tomorrow night’s rearranged SPL clash with St Johnstone seeking their first league win at Easter Road in seven months.
Not since goals from Callum Booth and Lewis Stevenson – in each case their first and so far only strikes in a green and white shirt – earned Colin Calderwood’s side a 2-0 victory over Inverness Caley have the home fans been able to celebrate such an event. “Seriously?” queries the midfield powerhouse as he’s informed that win took place on February 26, before quickly agreeing it’s a record which is badly in need of some adjustment.
Easier said than done many might argue, as they point to the fact Hibs have managed to take all three points – coincidentally against Caley – just once this season, a record which leaves them a solitary point off bottom place.
The visit of St Johnstone, then, presents an opportunity to address both issues although Derek McInnes’ players will arrive in Edinburgh not only buoyed by their win over the other half of the Capital’s big two but by the fact that, along with table-topping Rangers, they remain unbeaten on the road on SPL business.
While victory for Hibs won’t see any marked improvement in their league placing, a win would, as astonishing as it might seem, pull them to only three points behind fourth-placed Hearts who were joined on the 12-point mark at the weekend by both St Johnstone and St Mirren.
If the statistics might suggest Hibs will again find themselves up against it, 24-year-old Osbourne argued that he and his team-mates go into the match with confidence enjoying a decidedly upward turn.
Results may not have been hugely successful but nevertheless the Hibees have negotiated the month of September unbeaten, although all four matches have ended in draws, a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Motherwell earning them a place in the last eight of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
And, Osbourne insisted, the way in which Calderwood’s side had fought back from finding themselves 3-1 down to Dundee United to snatch a precious point was evidence enough of the fight and commitment within the Easter Road dressingroom.
The jeers turned to cheers as Hibs staved off what seemed a certain defeat after a double from United skipper Jon Daly sandwiching Danny Swanson’s strike had all but rendered Garry O’Connor’s opener irrelevant.
Osbourne himself began the comeback, his shot ricocheting off Tannadice defender Scott Robertson and into the net before Junior Agogo struck with his first Hibs goal less than two minutes later.
Osbourne said: “It was an important one. At 3-1 it looked as if we were out of it. I snuck off round the back of their defence at our corner which missed everyone. I controlled it and hit it low and hard.”
United boss Peter Houston insisted afterwards that without Robertson’s intervention Osbourne’s shot would have been diverted by United team-mate Willo Flood who was stationed on the far post.
But, joking he’d be telling his mates back in Birmingham his effort was “a rocket from 30 yards into the top corner,” the Hibs star insisted: “I think it was going in regardless so I’m claiming it definitely as my first senior goal.”
Osbourne might have difficulty in convincing too many more to agree with him, but nevertheless the significance of that moment wasn’t lost on him.
He said: “It got us going and then Junior scored almost right away. We might even have gone on to win it but I think we showed there’s a lot of fight and heart in us.
“A lot of teams might have chucked it finding themselves 3-1 down but we are all in it together. We seem to be having to do it the hard way for anything we get at the moment but I think we are getting there, the signs are there that we are gelling as a team.
“The results are starting to pick up, we’ve not lost in our last four games but the next step is to start turning these draws into wins. What we are needing is clean sheets, if we do that then I’m certain the victories will come.
“As pleasing as it was to come back in the way we did at the weekend, we should never have found ourselves 3-1 down in the first place.”
Calderwood himself has stressed the need for improvement in defence, bemoaning again the ease with which United found the back of Graham Stack’s net, although the one salvation for Hibs has been the strikerate of O’Connor.
The hitman took his tally for the season to eight, four of them coming in his last three matches, although Osbourne believes that others are now beginning to lift the weight off O’Connor’s shoulders with goals of their own.
Martin Scott, Akpo Sodje and Ivan Sproule have all scored in recent weeks and with Agogo now off the mark, Osbourne predicted plenty more to come.
He said: “It was another fantastic goal for Garry, he’s on fire at the moment. It was good to see Junior scoring. I’m sure that will have lifted his confidence and he’ll go on to score more.
“The manager has said he wants to see more goals from everyone and now the midfielders are starting to get involved, more guys are chipping in.”
Hibs form, following their dismal tenth place finish last season, has put Calderwood under pressure but, according to Osbourne, the Easter Road manager shows no signs – outwardly at least – of succumbing.
He said: “The gaffer has remained calm amidst it all which is what you need. Going shouting at the boys makes everyone lose confidence and that’s why we like him so much, he’s a calming influence.
“We’ve heard the jeers from the fans and you can understand that but the way they reacted as we came back at United was terrific. Obviously we’d much rather have that and if we can put in the performances then I’m sure we’ll get them cheering again.
“If we can play the way we did in that spell tomorrow night then I think we can win. That’s what the fans are waiting for, a home victory, and I’m sure it will help put a different complexion on things.”