Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom: Scrappy and ugly goals, they all count
Paul Heckingbottom has watched his Hibs players pass up chance after chance in recent weeks as they’ve clocked up a run of eight matches without a win - but the head coach is demanding they create even more, convinced the goals which have eluded them will soon come.
And, he admitted, he’s not bothered about seeing them claim the perfect goal, he’d be delighted to clinch the three points by whatever means.
The Yorkshireman insisted he was unaware of the Easter Road outfit’s claim to the dubious title of having dropped most points from a winning position this season - Hibs have been ahead in five of their past seven games and haven’t enjoyed the taste of victory - but conceded: “It doesn’t surprise me.
“There are two ways to look at it, but all I’m worried about is the end result. I don’t care if we fall behind and come back to win or go in front and then hold on and win, it’s all about the score after 90 minutes.
“We certainly should have taken more points from the games where we have been in front, whether that is down to us missing chances or not being clinical enough and putting the game to bed, or giving too many chances away, which we haven’t. It’s just that teams have been punishing us.
“The distance between us and them, earlier in the season, was more to do with the lineman’s flag against St Johnstone and we were lucky that a decision didn’t cost us against St Mirren when a goal was disallowed. So there are lots of reasons, but the only thing I’m bothered about is the score at the end of the 90 minutes.”
Heckingbottom insisted there was a myriad of reasons why his side’s chances-to-goals ratio was so poor, the bottom line, however, being that they simply weren’t converting as many as they’d like.
“I wouldn’t say anyone is on fire at the moment in front of goal, that’s obvious to see,” he said, something of an understatement considering Christian Doidge has been unable to convert any of the four one-one-one situations he has found himself in against Aberdeen, or Daryl Horgan’s possible contender for miss of the season at Hamilton last weekend.
“But whether that is a lack of confidence or a lack of technique, things just dropping... I think it is a mixture of them all. That and maybe trying too hard. Sometimes when you have more time to think about it, that makes the chance a lot harder.
“Sometimes it is better to rely on instinct. The only thing we can do is keep creating the chances, keep getting into the positions. If we knew the answers then it would be an easy question.
“All we can do is keep pushing and keep getting people into those positions. I actually think we can create more than we do. A lot of our chances at the minute are down to really good football, things we have worked on at the training ground - like the set play the other day that went through Ryan’s (Porteous) legs a yard out.
“So we need to not worry about it being the perfect goal. I just want us to get bodies in the box and if it is something scrappy that luckily falls to us and gets us the second goal that gives us the daylight we need to win the game so be it. If it is scrappy or hits off someone’s backside and goes in, I’m not bothered.
“Assessing the season, we had a good start then a really poor run where we looked weak and vulnerable. But we’ve looked good if not better than our opponents in the last few games. But we should be higher than where we are in the league with the we have played, definitely.”
Tomorrow’s match against Ross County marks the start of a big week for Hibs with another Premiership tie at home against Livingston to follow on Wednesday night before next Saturday’s Betfred Cup semi-final with Celtic at Hampden, a week Heckingbottom is relishing even if it will be more of a test for his squad than the larger numbers available to Neil Lennon at Celtic.
He said: “I’d much prefer to having the games thick and fast. Two home games, a cup semi-final, perfect games for us to look forward to.”
With that in mind, defenders Adam Jackson and Jason Naismith were given a runout in Tuesday’s mini-derby against Hearts, the pair having recovered from concussion and a nasty leg wound respectively.
Heckingbottom said: “It was important with the fixtures coming up. We’ve not got a big squad so we’ll be relying on players to step up and definitely play their part from the bench and in the starting XI in the next three games.
“We need to make sure they’re ready to go if called upon. Jason was doing great, got a nasty cut in the Hearts game but Tom (James) stepped in and did really well. Jacko is waiting patiently, he got a bang on the head and it’s making sure he is up to speed if needed as well.”