Hibs’ Hanlon hoping that’s it for first night nerves

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The Hibs board will attempt to whittle down their shortlist this week as they work towards appointing their ninth manager in ten years.

But, despite another frustrating performance for both the players and supporters in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock, defender Paul Hanlon insists the players don’t feel there is any great urgency to source a permanent successor to Colin Calderwood.

Former Hearts No. 2 Billy Brown is currently caretaker boss after stepping up from his assistant manager’s position, and he had hoped to enhance his prospects of landing the job by masterminding only the Leith side’s second SPL home win of the campaign.

An improved second-half performance ensured Hibs, who travel to St Johnstone on Saturday, emerged with a share of the spoils as substitute Leigh Griffiths cancelled out Manuel Pascali’s strike.

There may not have been the obvious signs of any green shoots of recovery for a team just two points clear of the relegation zone. But the fans, in the end, at least appreciated the committed attitude of a group of players who appear so nervous about playing on their own patch.

“Maybe it was the case we were still trying to find our feet a wee bit under Billy in the first half, there was a change in the formation and things like that,” said left-back Hanlon, who helped the Scotland Under-21s to a stunning Euro qualifying win in Holland last week.

“If Billy is in charge for the next couple of games or whatever we will be fully aware of what everyone is doing. He has been here a good few weeks now and knows all the lads inside out, if he is to continue in charge we will be happy with that.

“He wants you to enjoy training, he wants you to work hard and enjoy it and so far that’s what the lads have been doing. Hopefully, if he’s in charge for the next game, we can repay him with three points.

“It’s a case of the board deciding when a new manager should be appointed and that’s when the hard work starts all over again.

“I only got back to full training with the rest of the boys on Thursday after being away with the Scotland Under-21s.

“It’s hard coming back and it’s hard for Billy as he wants to put his ideas across as early in the week as he can but having a few of us away, it’s difficult.”

Before the game, Brown had talked of remedying Hibs’ soft centre that had been prevalent in the seven losses they racked up under Calderwood this season. That meant sacrificing their striking options for a defensive 4-2-3-1 formation that left captain Garry O’Connor isolated for much of the opening 45 minutes.

But Brown – in his first ever half-time team talk following 23 years as a loyal assistant to Jim Jefferies – identified those issues and brought on Griffiths and Richie Towell. On loan Wolves marksman Griffiths pounced on goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola’s blunder in the 50th minute to level the game. Hibs then remained solid at the back as the half unfolded to claim a point.

“The first half was a major disappointment,” added the impressive Hanlon. “We couldn’t string two passes together at times but we showed a lot of character to come back, especially so early in the second half with Leigh Griffiths coming on and making a difference.

“Overall I would say a point was a fair result. There was a good team spirit amongst us to fight back in the second half.”

The first-half display was all too familiar for the Hibs supporters as Kilmarnock deservedly took a 36th minute lead through Manuel Pascali following a sustained period of possession. Jeers rained down from the stands as the frustrated natives watched their heroes fail to cope.

Hanlon added: “You obviously want to get the fans onside but I suppose it’s our fault when they get on our backs.

“We’re there to put on a good performance for them. They started off 100 per cent behind us and we’re giving the ball away and being slack, and they’re not enjoying what they’re seeing. It’s up to us to make them happy and put in good performances.”

Hanlon was named the man of the match by sponsors following a faultless performance at left back.

Like most of the Hibs side, he has not been immune to criticism this season but the youngster, without the extra responsibility of captaining the side, stood out against Kilmarnock.

“I was happy enough, I think I tired quite a bit towards the end but I’ve obviously had the extra game,” added Hanlon, who had been vice captain to Ian Murray earlier this season.

“The captaincy is not something I really worry about too much, I was delighted when I was skipper of the team but if that’s someone else’s job at this time, I’m not too bothered it.

“I want to concentrate on my own game and play well every week for Hibs.”

The 21-year-old also has no qualms about reverting to full-back after beginning the campaign in central defence.

He added: “I’m happy to play in both positions, as long as I’m in the starting line-up I’m happy. Whoever the manager is, if he wants me to play left back or centre half, I’m more than happy to do that.”