Hibs boss Terry Butcher has admitted he’s been left “heartbroken” by the rapidly mounting number of goals the Easter Road side are conceding.
Butcher has been left shaking his head in disbelief as he’s watched his players lose three goals or more in four of their last five matches at home, their latest horror show seeing them go down 3-1 to Dundee United and further denting their hopes of a top-six finish.
The current ease with which opposition teams are finding their way past goalkeeper Ben Williams is in stark contrast to Butcher’s early games in charge, the first eight resulting in Hibs losing just three goals as they racked up five clean sheets.
But since surrendering a two-goal lead in the last ten minutes against United at Tannadice in early January, Hibs have lost 15 goals in seven league games plus a further three as they made a shock Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Championship club Raith Rovers, St Mirren having also scored three and Celtic four in the two fixtures before the Fife outfit’s giant-killing act.
Now, having branded the performance against United “unacceptable,” Butcher conceded: “We have to be much better than that. We are much better than that. Defensively we have been far stronger. Now we seem weak in allowing easy goals, which is heartbreaking for me and heartbreaking for the Hibs supporters. We will have to work hard at that.”
Although sixth-placed St Johnstone remain just three points ahead following their narrow defeat by Aberdeen at Pittodrie, Butcher is well aware that matches are rapidly running out if Hibs are to achieve their goal of a place in the top six with the split now only six games away.
Accepting that the dream won’t be realised if Hibs continue to play as they did against United, the Edinburgh side having enjoyed just two wins against the league’s two bottom sides, Hearts and Ross County so far this year, Butcher felt his players were “not too bad” for the first 20 minutes on Friday night but then “seemed to fall out of the game”.
And while United cantered to their win, Butcher agreed it could have been much worse for Hibs with Nadir Ciftci seeing a penalty saved by Williams before Gary Mackay-Steven blasted another spot-kick over the bar.
The Hibs manager said: “We were up against a good team that’s bang in form so it was always going to be a challenge for us. But we did not rise to that challenge, nowhere near it.
“Too many players sat off, too many players were not comfortable on the ball and the difference between the two sides in terms of movement, passing and keeping the ball was marked.
“I could offer the line that they have played together for some time and know each other very well but that’s a feeble excuse and I don’t want to offer any excuses.”