Pat Fenlon has claimed Hibs aren’t being given the credit they deserve after Liam Craig’s winner against Partick Thistle fired the Easter Road outfit into joint fourth place in the Scottish Premiership.
The Hibs boss had to endure severe criticism, with many calling for him to be sacked when the humiliating Europa League thrashing by Malmo was followed by defeats at the hands of Motherwell and Hearts in the opening two games of the season.
However, Fenlon refused to panic and, with chairman Rod Petrie making it clear there would be no knee-jerk reaction as his manager was given time for a squad containing ten summer signings to gel, he has seen Hibs’ fortunes improve dramatically.
A run of six matches unbeaten, which also saw Hibs reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish League Cup, was brought to a halt by Inverness but Fenlon’s players bounced back with what the Irishman admitted was a “smash and grab” raid on Firhill to take them to the 14-point mark, level with the Dons but with the Pittodrie club slightly ahead on goal difference.
While fully accepting criticism is deserved when a team is being beaten and not winning matches, Fenlon insisted: “I think we have been on a half-decent run but I do not think we have got enough plaudits for that – but that’s the way it is, something I am used to.”
And when it was flagged up Hibs were now level with Aberdeen, Fenlon pointedly replied: “But they have had a fabulous start to the season I believe, so good on them.”
Fenlon has also been accused of making poor use of substitutes at times but, he claimed, it was the introduction of Owain Tudur Jones and French kid Abdellah Zoubir, who set up Craig’s sixth goal of the season, which had helped turn Monday night’s match in Hibs’ favour.
He revealed: “I said at half-time we had got out of jail a little bit. Thistle had been excellent in the first half and up to then we were a bit bitty and all over the place. But Owain and Zouby coming on settled us down, we put our foot on the ball so people might give us a bit of credit and say we know what we are doing.
“It was a bit smash and grab from us but I’d said before the game that if you can win when you are not playing well then it’s a good trait to have.”
There was more good news for Fenlon as teenage midfielder Danny Handling began his comeback from the foot injury which has kept him out of Hibs’ last five matches by playing for the Under-20 side last night as they beat Dundee United 2-1.
Handling played 65 minutes of the game in which Paul Cairney, Fraser Mullen and Sam Stanton all featured, Hibs’ goals coming from Jason Cummings and Euan Smith. James McDonaugh’s side trail leaders Hamilton on goal difference after Accies beat St Johnstone 3-1 last night.