Barely two weeks into his Easter Road career and Matt Done has already endured a rollercoaster of emotions with which every Hibs fan can identify with.
In only three appearances in a green-and-white shirt, the on-loan Barnsley winger has hit the highs and plummeted to the depths of despair following his deadline day move to Edinburgh.
And even that wasn’t as straightforward as it might have seemed, the 24-year-old having consigned himself to remaining on the fringes in South Yorkshire as the minutes ticked down to the transfer window slamming shut.
A late-night call from his agent, however, turned his life on its head, Done making a quick dash to a hotel near his Manchester home to beg the use of their fax machine to ensure the necessary paperwork was completed in time to allow him to make a quick dash north the following day to join his new team-mates at their East Mains training centre.
While the faces may have been unfamiliar, his new surroundings certainly weren’t. By a strange twist of fate the former Rochdale player had made his debut for the Tykes on the outskirts of Tranent, a pre-season friendly against Hibs hastily rearranged after a sudden summer downpour rendered Easter Road unplayable.
Within 48 hours Done had enjoyed the heady atmosphere induced by a William Hill Scottish Cup triumph over Aberdeen, Done replacing David Wotherspoon for the final 19 minutes after Gary Deegan’s spectacular strike had given Hibs what proved to be the winner and earning them a quarter-final trip to face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Done, however, night have gathered from the bewildering pace of events that everything wasn’t going to be plain sailing. And so it has proved.
The ecstasy of victory over the Dons gave way to despair as Pat Fenlon’s side crashed 3-1 to St Johnstone as Done started his first match for Hibs, the Capital outfit producing a thoroughly inept performance, one which their manager branded “unacceptable”, accusing his players of having allowed themselves to be “bossed and bullied” by their opponents.
Days of soul-searching allied to hard work on the training ground ensued, culminating in Hibs’ first League win of 2013 with Done playing a pivotal role in the victory, earning what he himself admitted was a soft penalty as St Mirren skipper Jim Goodwin’s challenge on him was ruled illegal by referee Willie Collum.
Leigh Griffiths stepped up to claim his 17th goal of the season – and his fifth against the Buddies – from the spot, the three points driving Fenlon’s side back into fourth sport in the table and within striking distance of second-placed Motherwell who, Done today insisted, are now very much in his sights.
He said: “It’s been a real rollercoaster since I came here, even making the move, arriving on the Friday and playing in the Cup on the Sunday. Winning that match was brilliant and the atmosphere was brilliant.
“But then the St Johnstone game was a major disappointment. I thought the effort was there, but it was too easy for them to attack against us.”
Done agreed the difference between that performance and the display in Paisley was “like night and day,” revealing Fenlon had put his players to work on the training ground to rectify the problems which had been so evident, the manager adopting a 4-5-1 formation against the Buddies as he sought to nullify the threat from Saints playmaker Paul McGowan.
However, while it may have appeared on the face of it to be a cautious system, Fenlon also had his side set up to make sure that as a lone striker Leigh Griffiths got quick support not only from Done and Paul Cairney on the flanks, but Scott Robertson and Tom Taiwo, in the middle of the park, with Jorge Claros providing a security shield in front of the back four.
As it turned out, it was Tawio’s cross in to Done which provided resulted in Collum’s most telling decision of the day. Done said: “Tom’s cross had gone behind me, but I tried to get on to my right foot. Their guy, the centre half, has come from my left hand side and there was contact. It was not a dive, but it was definitely soft.”
Arguing such decisions even themselves out over the course of a season and that “you have to take them when you get them”, Done added: “It was a win we badly needed. After the St Johnstone game it had been a very long week, but we worked hard in training on putting that right. We worked on our shape and I thought we looked much, much better. We felt confident going into the St Mirren match and I think it showed throughout the game that we were comfortable.”
Done’s contention was backed by the fact that other than an Esmael Goncalves effort which Ben Williams – who had saved three penalties in his four previous games – did well to parry. The Hibs goalkeeper was untroubled throughout the match while Griffiths saw one first-half shot crash back off the post and a later effort beaten away by Saints No.1 Craig Samson. There was further reward for Hibs when they later discovered Motherwell had beaten Inverness Caley to narrow the gap between fourth and second. Done said: “It’s a funny old league, it’s so tight between all the clubs. We’re now back in fourth and it’s in our hands. We have to win every game as we play them and I think we are capable of doing that after this performance.”