Hibs midfield trio shouldn't be judged until season's end
They are, with some justification, regarded as perhaps the most exciting midfield trio in Scottish football. Others may argue it is a matter of debate, but Hibs fans would ask those who disagree to name a better line-up in the middle of the park than John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan.
McGinn and McGeouch have, of course, been mainstays of the Easter Road side over the past couple of seasons, but the return of Allan for a second spell in a green-and-white shirt has undoubtedly added a new dimension. Questions marks, of course, hung over the 26-year-old as he made his transfer deadline day switch from being on loan at Dundee to agree a similar arrangement in the Capital, Allan himself the first to admit he might have to win some fans over given the nature of his departure for Celtic in the summer of 2015.
Any misgivings, however, rapidly evaporated as he played a starring role in back-to-back victories over Rangers and Aberdeen, wins which helped tighten Hibs’ grip on fourth place in the Premiership table.
The three dovetailed immediately, complementing each other’s style of play, McGinn catching the eye with his strong-running, box-to-box style, McGeouch quietly orchestrating things from a little further back and Allan, operating at the top of that midfield diamond, the one to supply those deft little touches to unlock the tightest of defences, something Hibs, despite picking up plenty of plaudits for their free-flowing football, had lacked.
Hibs boss Neil Lennon had been prepared to sacrifice leading scorer Simon Murray to bring Allan back to Edinburgh recognising the different dimension he could bring, the striker moving back to his hometown to spend the rest of the season with Dundee.
It has proved to be a shrewd move, Allan’s vision and ability to pick a pass finding him on the same wavelength as new strikers Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren, while McGinn, having suffered a dip in form through December, is now, in Lennon’s opinion, back to the form which had his manager declaring him to be the best midfielder in the country.
McGeouch, meanwhile, has just been superb in Lennon’s estimation, the 24-year-old now apparently free of the injury problems which blighted his first two seasons with the club. However, having watched them flatten Rangers and Aberdeen, Lennon knew fine well opposition teams weren’t simply going to stand back and admire the three at work, Allan having revealed that when he watches football he wants to see someone able to get him off his seat – and that he wants to be that player.
“I just leave them to it because eventually teams are going to want to stop them,” admitted Lennon. “That’s the challenge that they have to work out for themselves.”
His words proved to be prophetic as, after another highly–promising start at Rugby Park – Allan involved as Hibs made a whirlwind start with two goals in the opening nine minutes against Kilmarnock – the Capital side found themselves on the rack for the entire second half. Forget the controversial penalty that brought Killie their equaliser, Steve Clarke’s players bossed the match and, with former West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu running things, they counted themselves highly unlucky not to take all three points.
The much-vaunted Hibs trio struggled to make their presence felt as Killie turned the screw, the finesse of Allan giving way to the “enforcer” Marvin Bartley as the Capital side, with Lennon having been sent to the stand, battled to shore things up and escape with a point from the Premiership’s in-form team.
As disappointing as the final scoreline might have been given the start they’d made, it proved to be a point gained as far as Hibs were concerned, taking them that little bit closer to third-placed Aberdeen. But it also served as a warning to McGinn, McGeouch and Allan as to the trials and tribulations they might face over the remaining ten games as other outfits seek to emulate the stranglehold Kilmarnock took on the game.
And, as far as Lennon is concerned, it’s after that final match the three should be judged, not on the evidence of the past few weeks. Insisting they “weren’t great” in Ayrshire, Lennon said: “Let’s not run before we can walk. They’ve had three games together and that’s my concern, that we build the players up but that sometimes puts a target on their backs as well.
“They are good players but I think they should be judged at the end of the season rather than after two or three games. But I do like the way they are dovetailing at the minute.”