Hibs reaction: Neil Lennon vows to give team back its mental strength
Eight games between now and the end of the year will undoubtedly define Hibs' season, a run in which Neil Lennon and his players badly need to rediscover that winning feeling.
A mere two points from five winless matches has slipped Hibs into the bottom half of the Ladbrokes Premiership, a position from which they can clearly extricate themselves given the tightness and unpredictable nature of the top flight.
However, all involved will no doubt be reflecting on the self-inflicted wounds which have proved so costly in the past three matches, conceding a soft goal so late on against St Johnstone, one big mistake at Pittodrie and, on Saturday, surrendering a two-goal lead against basement outfit Dundee.
An own goal from Genseric Kusunga within the first minute and a powerful Ryan Porteous header should have, given the Dees’ predicament, left Jim McIntyre’s players fearing they would be on the end of a bit of a hiding. And had Hibs been able to produce that telling final ball and turn chances into goals, then that could well have been the final outcome.
However, as Hibs fans have seen time and again this season, openings are offered to the opposition that simply should not be allowed, in this instance Nathan Ralph left to run almost the length of the pitch unchallenged before delivering a low cross which ex-Hibs striker Kenny Miller expertly redirected beyond goalkeeper Adam Bogdan to make it 2-1.
That goal in the first minute of first-half stoppage-time was compounded two minutes after the interval when Jesse Curran was given similar freedom to supply Dees midfielder Paul McGowan, who swivelled to lash a shot high into the net.
They were, agreed Hibs midfielder Daryl Horgan, pivotal moments, with the Republic of Ireland internationalist saying: “You don’t concede in the last minute and you don’t concede in the first five. Unfortunately mistakes cost us.
“Getting to half-time two goals ahead was key. You just have to see it out. At 2-1 it’s a completely different game, it gave them a bit of life. It changes both teams’ half-time talks completely.
“They are going into the dressing room buzzing. We’ve dominated for 40 or 44 minutes but we’re going in with our heads down, fuming with each other. They’re on a high, they haven’t played well but are back in the game.
“Then we are sloppy at the start of the second half and concede again. It’s not good enough, it’s poor.
“We need to take our chances, but we have to keep clean sheets as well –it’s both ends. It wasn’t good enough and we have to do better.”
Having watched his side fail to score in their previous three matches, Hibs head coach Lennon conceded that getting two in this one was a positive he could take, although he bemoaned the fact his strikers Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren have yet to rekindle that partnership which brought them 17 goals in the second half of last season and prompted their return to Easter Road.
Lennon admitted that McGowan who, along with Glen Kamara, had taken a grip of the game in the middle of the park, scored his goal during a period when Hibs were “abject, feeling sorry for themselves and lacking character”.
He added: “After we changed our shape we were a lot better and had control of the game. But we aren’t taking our chances, not producing the final ball and not believing in ourselves at the minute. It’s a spell I have to manage – and I will.”
He was, though, at something of a loss to explain how a team which had looked as if it could score at will at times during the first half had allowed the direction of the game to change so dramatically.
And when it was put to him that Hibs looked on course to win, he replied: “We should have been. We shouldn’t concede, we should go in 2-0 up, but we switch off, get complacent. I don’t know if the players thought it was easy or not but Ralph has come a long way and Paul Hanlon could not get across quickly enough to stop Kenny from scoring.
“It’s poor, then the psychology of the game changes. It gives Dundee a lift, then we don’t come out of the traps at the start of the second half and concede again. We should have won the ball in midfield and stood up rather than diving in.
“It’s a culmination of things. It’s frustrating, but it’s part of football. We need to get back to being strong mentally because that’s what we were good at for a long period of time. We’re just lacking that a little bit at the minute.”