Tonight’s fixture with Dunfermline is probably our biggest match of the season to date, and is an occasion where the players must keep their composure as any rash challenges or silly bookings could prove so costly.
The dilemma Pat Fenlon and his players find themselves in is whether to go and attack from the first whistle or adopt a different tactic and remain patient. With Dunfermline needing to score, you would like to think we will have opportunities of our own to find the back of the net but striking the balance is every manager’s quandary. Having been in such a position myself as a player, it always gives you that little bit of comfort knowing you have a vital component in your team, and that is a proven goal scorer. In my case, I knew with the likes of Owen Coyle and Tommy Coyne that if we could provide the service they required then the goals would come naturally. This is why I feel players such as Garry O’Connor and Leigh Griffiths are invaluable.
Supporters on the other hand can play such a vital role by giving as much encouragement as possible to enable the players to relax and use their attributes that will find us the win we need. I have previously spoken about the pressure going into these games and can have an effect on even the most experienced professionals. One major bonus the players do have in their favour is that Dunfermline cannot leave Easter Road without a victory, otherwise it’s all over for the Pars. This should make for a very nerve racking 90 minutes for both sets of supporters in the ground.
A good disciplined performance and coming away with at least a point will ensure we can look forward to the Scottish Cup final in a few days and also allow the players to enjoy the build-up to such a momentous occasion.
The players picked themselves up after the disappointing defeat away to St Mirren to grind out a victory at Pittodrie last Wednesday. Gaining the initiative early on certainly helped our cause as Aberdeen put us under pressure towards the end, but the players defended well enough to see out the game. With Dunfermline picking up another point at Inverness, the result became even more significant. We have now chalked up six victories on the road this season and accumulated the most points out of teams in the bottom six of the table. It’s not difficult to see where our problems lie. To have only won once at home all season is a statistic nobody could have predicted but a second win tonight would ultimately secure our SPL status.
Having Billy Brown as our assistant is a valuable tool to have in regards to tonight’s game. He knows the Dunfermline manager better than anyone in the game and will know what he will be saying to his players prior to kick-off. Their aim is to take the relegation issue until the last day of the season so we must be ready for whatever they throw at us. It’s not only Hibs’ approach to the game that is intriguing, will Dunfermline come out and throw caution to the wind and attack from the very first minute? I think it would be very naive for someone of Jim Jefferies stature not to have some sort of game plan.
Our bid to survive is firmly in our own hands and that’s all you can ask for at this stage of the season.
It’s never ideal having to rely on somebody else to decide your own fate so we should be thankful for this. After learning of Motherwell’s qualification for the Champions League next season, it’s disappointing we are not at the right end of the table and battling it out for such honours, but with the right result tonight, and a rethink over the summer with regards to player recruitment, then who’s to say we can’t be in a more favourable position this time next year? We need to put this league campaign behind us and focus on making the future bright for Hibernian Football Club.