Daryl Horgan: Hibs have got their bounce back after two good results
Daryl Horgan says he and his Hibs team-mates have a spring back in their step after digging deep to clinch a place in the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup and then becoming the first side to take a point off champions Celtic this season.
Having lost three straight games culminating in a soul-destroying derby defeat, Horgan knows little was expected of Paul Heckingbottom’s players as they travelled to face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park only a few days before facing up to Celtic.
But instead of capitulating - as many might have predicted - the Easter Road side, as Horgan put it, “toughed it out” in Ayrshire, winning in a sudden death penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes couldn’t separate the teams, and then defying the odds again less than 72 hours later.
Admitting Heckingbottom’s players had enjoyed a huge boost to their flagging confidence, the Republic of Ireland winger said: “It was a tough week starting with Hearts and then a match with a semi-final at stake so quickly after such a disappointment.
“We had a chat after the derby and pretty much focused on Kilmarnock straight away but it’s always difficult going down to Rugby Park. It was a very hard 120 minutes with penalties to follow.
“It wasn’t free-flowing or very exciting football, but we fought for the result and we knew we had to take that into the Celtic game.
“We had little time to prepare for that one, we’d had a very late night on the Wednesday and while Celtic had their own match against Partick Thistle they were able to rest eight players before coming through to Edinburgh.
“We had to try to produce the same energy and I thought we looked very solid, our use of the ball was better than at Kilmarnock and we had some good passages of play.
“We had a bit of luck for the goal but the build-up was good, Adam Jackson’s ball in to Scott Allan with his vision and ability to spot Christian Doidge’s run in behind and make that pass. The boys were happy, everyone was buzzing. We’d not had much to celebrate in recent weeks so there was a bit of back-slapping going on which was brilliant to see. We knew we’d stopped the rot in a sense.”
Horgan insisted he and his team-mates were now “in a much better place” than they had been prior to their last two matches but, warned the 27-year-old, they now have to build on those results and performances as they look to go into the latest international break with a win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie tomorrow.
“Confidence is a strange thing,” said the former Preston North End player. “It goes quicker than it comes and it can be very difficult to regain. We’d had bad results, a rough patch, but we fought to come through it and hopefully we’ll now start to kick on.”
However, noting that Aberdeen very much held the upper-hand against Hibs last season - even if there was little between the teams on each occasion - Horgan conceded that a visit to Pittodrie is fraught with danger.
The Dons, however, go into tomorrow’s match reeling from a 5-0 hammering by Rangers, the biggest defeat manager Derek McInnes has suffered during his time at the club, a result which followed a Betfred Cup exit - on penalties - against Hearts at Tynecastle.
Hibs, of course, endured their own mauling at Ibrox earlier in the season, Aberdeen discovering, said Horgan, as Heckingbottom’s players had, just how dangerous Rangers can be when they build up a head of steam.
He said: “Rangers are a very good side. That sort of result can happen, but it shouldn’t. The fact we were down to ten men after Sean Mackie had been sent off didn’t help, but we didn’t do ourselves justice that day. When Rangers get the bit between their teeth you are in a spot of bother, particularly at Ibrox.
“I would imagine Aberdeen won’t be too happy, they have a very good squad with a good manager and that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often to them.
“I’m sure they’ll be looking to come flying out the traps at us tomorrow also we’ll have to be ready for that. The fact it’s at Pittodrie will make it that bit harder for us because they have a good home record.
“Last season we had a number of very good games against them and although they came out on top overall, there was never more than a goal in it.
“Often such games can hinge on a single mistake or a flash of individual brilliance but matches against Aberdeen have always been brilliant to play in.
“I think we’ll both enjoy the fact we’ve had a whole week to prepare and as far as we are concerned, we’re looking to take the performances we’ve produced against Killie and Celtic into this one. We’ve shown we can dig it out.”