David Gray glad to be in Hibs goals but is staying grounded

It would be a legitimate question for any player who has scored four goals so far this season to be asked if hitting double figures would be a realistic target.

Saturday, 22nd September 2018, 6:30 am
David Gray has scored four goals so far this season, his latest in the 3-2 victory over Kilmarnock last week

It would be a legitimate question for any player who has scored four goals so far this season to be asked if hitting double figures would be a realistic target.

However, for someone like Hibs skipper David Gray, who can hardly be regarded as a prolific marksman, it was probably not surprising he initially thought the query was in regard to how many he might score in his entire career.

In fact, Gray’s bullet header in the 3-2 win over Kilmarnock last weekend was his 11th for Hibs, his most memorable, of course, being that historic Scottish Cup winner against Rangers. But given he hadn’t found the net in any of the eight seasons prior to him returning north of the border, he was entitled to a wry reply of, “Prolific, eh?” when asked about this early-season goals rush.

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“No, it’s been good and I’m enjoying it,” said the right-back of his happy knack of stealing in at the back post to claim crucial strikes.

“I’m enjoying getting into these positions and thankfully they’re going in at the moment. Long may that continue.

“We worked on the set-piece [the corner which brought his goal against Killie] and when it comes off it’s brilliant. It helps when you’ve got somebody like Stevie [Mallan].

“If you can get away from your man you’ve got a right good chance of getting on the ball because his deliveries are always really good. It’s great to have somebody like that in the team.”

Having already scored more times this season than in any other, Gray conceded that to take that tally into double figures this term would be beyond his wildest dreams, but insisted that, as a defender, he would rather have ten clean sheets than another goal.

While Neil Lennon’s side have been scoring plenty themselves, they’ve also been conceding more than is good for them as Gray agreed, saying: “We need to try and tighten up on that front.”

Today’s match against basement side Dundee at Dens Park would appear to offer Gray and his team-mates the perfect opportunity to claim a rare shut-out given the Tayside outfit have managed just two goals in their five Ladbrokes Premiership matches to date.

But Gray insisted Lennon’s players had to be wary of a team desperate to get their first points of the season as they seek to prevent themselves becoming detached at the foot of the table.

He said: “I think they’ve had a bit of a tough run. They’ve lost the first five games so I’m pretty sure they’re going to be coming out all guns blazing to get that first win or that first point.

“We know what to expect. We’ve been well drilled all week and we’re fully expecting a really tough game.”

However, while anticipating Dundee to attempt a whirlwind start, Gray agreed that Hibs could quickly deflate both the Dens Park players and fans alike by hitting them with a similar opening to the game.

He said: “It’s important to always start the game well. A few times we’ve been slow out of the blocks but in games we have taken the lead we can really push on and try to get the result.

“We’ve got players who can hurt people, a lot of pace and a lot of power up front, so we’ll be trying to start the game as well as we can as their confidence might be a little bit low.”

While Hibs’ start to the season may appear a little pedestrian compared to the five straight wins Capital rivals Hearts have made to open up a healthy gap at the top end of the table, Gray said everyone at Easter Road was quietly confident they can emulate the success they enjoyed on their return to the Premiership last season.

The loss of key players John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch was always going to be a difficult hurdle for Hibs to overcome but Gray said: “I think the club have been quite cute in what they have done. They’ve gone about their business and strengthened the squad without trying to do a like-for-like.

“The work has been done in the background to get the sort of players the manager wants.”