Chris Maxwell senses that Lady Luck may be finally smiling on Hibs
Chris Maxwell believes Hibs have finally enjoyed the slice of luck which has eluded them so far this season, hoping that moment will herald a change of fortune for the Easter Road club.
The goalkeeper found himself stranded as he slipped having perhaps made the wrong call in racing from his area in a bid to meet Kilmarnock defender Stephen O’Donnell’s through ball, presenting striker Eamonn Brophy with the chance to score what, in all probability, would have been the goal to win a Betfred Cup semi-final place for his side.
But to Maxwell’s relief, as he furiously back-pedalled in a bid to retrieve the situation Brophy lofted his shot over the goal, Hibs making the most of that escape by securing a Hampden outing against Celtic at the start of November.
And it was the on-loan Preston North End player who emerged the hero of the moment as a penalty shoot-out went to sudden-death, Maxwell saving Niko Hamalainen’s effort to secure a 5-4 win.
Highlighting Hearts kid Aaron Hickey’s deflected winner as he’d made his Premirship debut for Paul Heckingbottom’s side only a few days earlier, the 29-year-old said: “It’s part and parcel of goalkeeping but thankfully it was alright and we got away with it.
“It was that bit of luck I feel we have lacked this season. Look back to the goal against Hearts, the winner. If it was that much higher or lower when it comes off Josh Vela’s foot it does not go in, I save it or it hits the bar.
“So we have lacked that bit of luck and hopefully it has turned around now.”
With head coach Heckingbottom under mounting pressure as Hibs slipped to second bottom place in the league table, Maxwell admitted there had been an increasing tension within his squad but, he insisted, their battling display against Killie proved he and his team-mates are up for the fight.
He said: “Any professional sportsperson, no matter what level or what sport, you are winners. First and foremost you are winners, whether it’s playing a game of football, a computer game or whatever.
“Everyone wants to win so to see us not winning and things going against us, it’s been heartbreaking. But I give credit to the manager, the staff and all the boys. We’ve stuck in there and grafted away.”
And claimed Maxwell, he was more than happy to see his side win playing ugly. He said: “I am proud of every single one of the boys, it was a tough, tough game. Killie are a good team, no pushovers, a well-organised side who fight for everything.
“I would rather we won with that sort of performance than with pretty football because it shows we can do that side of the game when some people say we can’t. We were excellent in terms we did the hard things right.
“We were had to beat, we stuck a foot in when we needed to, we passed the ball when we needed to, came through a tough game and through to Hampden.”
Although the flak directed at them was incessant, Maxwell revealed no-one within Heckingbottom’s camp had lost their self-belief, not least the Yorkshireman himself.
“I’ve known the manager for a long time,” he said. “And the effort he puts in from day to day is second to none. I think he is a very good, honest guy and he works hard for everyone. So he deserved the little bit of luck we got.
“Every single one of us in the dressing-room and the manager and staff believe that we are a good team. We believed it would turn round. That game symbolises, hopefully, a change.”
As fate would have it, Hibs meet Celtic in league action tomorrow and Maxwell admitted he was desperate for a repeat of the Killie display both then and in the following match away to Aberdeen, Heckingbottom’s players having addressed their problems directly as the head coach “threw the floor open” to them in his derby debrief.
He said: “That was important. When you have a group of winners, which we have, you can’t be afraid to say things. We have to have leaders on the pitch, 11 leaders, because the manager can’t do everything.
“We have to demand from each other that we do things right, day in and day out, which we do. We have to demand we do things right on the pitch, it’s the horrible things, that extra yard, sticking you head in where it hurts. If you look at the Killie game, how many times was there a little scuffle in the middle of the pitch between us and them?
“If anybody wants to correct me, every single one of our boys wanted to win. There was no backing down from the challenges we faced.”
A red card for youngster Ryan Porteous was the only demerit for Hibs but, insisted Maxwell: “He’s a fantastic talent, an exciting prospect.”