Pat FENLON today admitted the Easter Road support had been left “cheated” after watching Hibs crash to a 3-1 home defeat against St Johnstone with a display the manager branded “unacceptable”.
Fenlon’s players went into last night’s clash aiming to haul themselves into joint second place alongside Inverness and Motherwell, but instead they find themselves fifth and only five points ahead of second- bottom St Mirren, whom they face in Paisley on Saturday. Hibs’ smallest crowd of the season – 8735 – looked on in dismay as a first-half double from Saints forward Rowan Vine left Hibs, in Fenlon’s words, “all over the place” as they slumped to their biggest home defeat of the campaign.
Ben Williams threw them a lifeline by pushing aside Steven MacLean’s penalty before the interval – it was the goalkeeper’s fifth spot-kick save of the season – only for ex-Hibs midfielder Patrick Cregg to wrap up the points for the Perth club with his first goal in almost three years, leaving Leigh Griffiths’ late strike – his 16th of the season – as scant consolation for those Hibs fans who had remained to the bitter end. Today Fenlon conceded his side lacked the “desire and real determination” to get something out of the game, attributes he felt Steve Lomas’ side “had in spades”.
As he threatened to wield the axe before the weekend trip to St Mirren, who also have a game in hand, Fenlon said: “It was bitterly disappointing and not good enough. There was nothing in the game up to the first goal, but after that we were all over the place.
“We have an experienced team that should not be losing their shape and discipline and conceding another goal so quickly. I feel sorry for the supporters because we have cheated them a little bit in relation to that performance, me included. That’s not good enough and we have to make sure on Saturday there is a little bit of payback for them.
“I don’t think there’s anyone apart from Ben who comes out of it well. There was a lack of desire, a lack of hunger and a lack of real determination to get something out of the game.
“They [St Johnstone] showed that in spades to be fair to them, they worked tremendously hard and showed a real hunger and desire to get something out of the game. That’s more disappointing. You do not mind losing but when you lose it rolling over it’s difficult to accept. I’ve said previously it is a ‘given’ in this game that you work hard for each other. We didn’t do that, we did not move the ball or pass it, we did not have movement off the ball. In fairness to St Johnstone they had that and in addition a tremendous appetite to win.”
Fenlon agreed his side had offered Saints far too many opportunities with Lomas afterwards claiming there would have been little complaint had his team scored more.
Fenlon described Hibs as having been torn “asunder”, adding: “That should not happen with this team. They are good pros. Sometimes when you lose a goal you have to say ‘right, let’s get back to what we were doing’. We did not do that, we got very edgy after the first goal.”
The Hibs boss and his backroom staff will sit down and analyse the match today as they begin to draw up battle plans for Saturday’s trip along the M8, but the Irishman admitted he’ll be looking for far better from his players.
Pointing out last night’s inept display was something of a rarity, he said: “We will be working hard, we always do, to put it right but the players have to realise what has gone on there for 90 minutes is not good enough.”