Dylan McGeouch: Hibs are not afraid to mix it if they have to
Dylan McGeouch has warned Partick Thistle that Hibs are not a soft touch despite Neil Lennon's complaints about the physical approach of Hamilton last week.
Lennon launched a stinging attack on Accies, who had five men booked during last weekend’s draw, describing their tactics as “caveman” – an accusation firmly rebutted by his opposite number Martin Canning.
And Lennon’s outburst led to Thistle defender Danny Devine claiming he and his team-mates would be happy to adopt a similar style if it would give them an advantage in tomorrow’s Premiership clash at Firhill.
“When you see things like that,” said Devine, “You think that you could possibly get in about this team and they might fold, they might not like it.
“We’ll concentrate on playing our own game, but if that’s what the manager wants and that’s what the boys feel will give us the edge to get those three points, then absolutely, we will do that.
“If being physical is to be the gameplan, then so be it. If it has to be a battle then we will roll our sleeves up and won’t back away from that.”
McGeouch, however, insisted no-one should be fooled into thinking Hibs don’t have the steel required simply because they prefer to play a stylish brand of football.
The midfielder said: “We can handle ourselves. If teams want to battle with us we can roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and match them. If teams want to play football, then we can do that as well.
“But I think obviously when we try to get on the ball and play good football, teams will want to stop us. It’s just part of football.”
McGeouch insisted Hibs’ complaints at the SuperSeal Stadium were more directed at referee Don Robertson who, they felt, hadn’t given them the level of protection to which they believed they were entitled.
The 24-year-old said: “There’s a disappointment after the game when we don’t get the result; you are disappointed with the ref about one or two decisions you didn’t get.
“I thought we perhaps did enough in the game to win, we maybe needed to be a bit more clinical in front of goal and finish it off.
“I don’t think we were moaning about the physicality, more about the ref. But that’s something as a good footballing team we know we need to put up with – and match the physical side as well.”
Tomorrow’s match in Maryhill kicks off an action-packed month for Hibs with seven matches to be played: Thistle followed by Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen in the space of just six days, the punishing schedule underlined by the fact McGeouch and his team-mates had their Christmas night out immediately after the Accies game, the only window in the calendar which allowed them that opportunity.
He said: “We knew when the fixtures came out December was going to be a tough month with a lot of games against a lot of the teams at the top of the table. It’s not really a worry, these are games you look forward to and I think we have carried ourselves well in the games we have played against the top four or five teams so hopefully over this period we can get a few good results and keep competing at the top end of the table.”
After dropping points against St Johnstone and Hamilton, McGeouch accepted it was important Hibs get back to the sort of form which saw them win four games in succession before the last international break but, he insisted, it was just as vital no-one looks any further ahead than tomorrow.
He said: “We have to be up for it. It’s not a case of just playing this game and then looking at the so-called bigger matches against Celtic and Rangers. It’s that old cliché, the next game is the most important.
“But it is after dropping points. We want to go on a good run again so we can’t afford to look past Thistle. It will be difficult, but we have the squad to do it.
“Only then can we look at Celtic and Rangers. We did well against both of them away from home but it is easy when you are playing in front of 50,000 fans. It’s still only the same three points, though.”
As the league season nears it’s mid-way point, McGeouch believes things will begin to take shape in the Premiership given the number of games each team will be playing this month prior to the winter break beginning in early January.
He said: “At the moment the league is a bit tight, it’s changing week-by-week from second to fourth. Come January I think it will be a bit clearer. Just now there are one or two points in it so it’s up to us to keep it going, to keep the pressure on and I feel we have the squad to do that.
“Every team has a lot of games over the next few weeks so we need to be ready to capitalise on teams about us dropping points. We finished before the international break with four wins in just two weeks, a great little run and that’s the sort of form we want to get back to.”
Hibs will have to attempt to do so, however, without the services of midfielder powerhouse John McGinn who is suspended for tomorrow’s match, six yellow cards having brought him an automatic one-game suspension.
The Scotland star will be sorely missed but Lennon does have options, the most obvious seeming to be Lithuanian internationalist Vykintas Slivka, who has been forced to wait patiently on the sidelines given the form of Hibs central midfield duo.
McGeouch said: “John is a big player for us, he’s a lot of what we do as a team so it isn’t great losing him. But we have strength in depth and this is an opportunity for someone to come in and try to impress. I’m sure whoever it is will be focused on doing that.
“Vicky has been great since he came in and is more than ready. But there’s a few others waiting for the chance, you can see that in training this week so whatever team the manager decides to put out will, I am sure, be capable of getting the job done.”
Partick face an even tougher December than most, Alan Archibald’s side facing eight matches having had only two in November, leaving McGeouch to ponder whether or not that will help the Jags tomorrow.
He said: “It’s one of those situations, it can be positive or negative, a chance to get the feet up and perhaps let one or two payers get over niggles, or being a bit rusty, you can’t tell.
“It’s good to keep playing, but I don’t think it will be a major factor. If it is, I hope it’s to our advantage.”