New Hibs boss Terry Butcher has hailed his Easter Road players as “heroes” after they marked his first match in charge with a battling goalless draw away to St Mirren.
The Paisley stalemate ended a run of four successive defeats for the Capital outfit but they now remain without a goal in five matches, failing to find the net since Paul Heffernan’s strike against Celtic more than a month ago.
Butcher’s hopes of ending that particular record won’t be improved by the news he expects Heffernan, his most experienced striker, to be “out for a while” after he limped off after only five minutes having torn a muscle in his left thigh.
Nevertheless, Butcher has declared himself satisfied with his side’s performance, happy to have seen their display improve noticeably as the game wore on to the point where, he insisted, they’d dominated the second half, much of which took place in Saints’ territory.
While Butcher’s description of his players may appear a little over the top following a match noted more for their effort, determination and work ethic than free-flowing football, the big Englishman declared: “I call them heroes because I think they were under pressure having lost four on the spin and having not scored. Okay, we haven’t scored, but it was a much, much better performance.”
Losing Heffernan so early in the game hadn’t helped, Butcher admitted, but he was full of praise for his replacement James Collins and his strike partner Danny Handling.
He said: “I thought James did well, he led the line magnificently. Danny is only a youngster but I like him. It’s great to see someone step up like that. I’d only seen him in one training session but he did enough to excite me so I thought ‘right, on you go’. He gave us a good shape to the team with Lewis Stevenson on the left and Paul Cairney on the right.
“Tom Taiwo came on and put in a shift, they all did, and if we get that energy and that level of commitment from the players we will be very, very happy.
“The response we got from the players was tremendous. The more the game went on the more I thought we were the only team likely to win it. We couldn’t get that goal, but judging by the backing of the Hibs fans, they must be happy with what they saw.”
Butcher, who took his place in the away dug-out after Hibs launched an appeal against his touchline ban, admitted the trick was now to ensure the players reproduce that level of performance on a regular basis.
He said: “We will make sure they maintain that level of commitment. We had them for six training sessions before the game, that’s all we’ve had and every session and every game is an audition for them, an opportunity to progress their careers.”
Hibs’ Under-20 side went down 5-1 to Rangers in the SFA Youth Cup at Ibrox with David Paul claiming the youngsters’ consolation goal.