Hibs urged to focus on upcoming games rather than dwell on defeat
Gordon Rae was at home in Selkirk watching the afternoon's football matches come to a conclusion via the results service on television, delighted to see Hibs had, as everyone thought, snatched a vital point thanks to Anthony Stokes last-gasp penalty.
But, along with every other Easter Road fan, his euphoria soon gave way to despair as St Johnstone claimed an even later winner, ending a run of four successive victories for Neil Lennon’s side.
Now, though, the former club captain insists Lennon’s players have to put the thoughts of what might have been out of their minds and concentrate on picking up maximum points from their next two matches before they hit a punishing December schedule which sees them playing Celtic, Aberdeen and Rangers in the space of six days before wrapping up the month with a trip to Tynecastle.
“I was sitting watching the results come through,” he revealed. “And thinking it was a great point because I knew both Aberdeen and Rangers were being beaten.
“But I’ve been there myself. You get a late equaliser and euphoria takes over and you think you can go on and win it. That’s when you need someone to steady things, to say let’s be happy with a point because only a couple of minutes ago we were losing.
“It’s a great attitude to have, to get a late equaliser and then say ‘let’s go on and win it’. You see that board go up telling you there’s three minutes to do it in, the crowd is right behind you and you think you can do it.
“You can’t knock them for wanting to try to win the game, but I’m sure Neil Lennon himself would have been thinking a draw was a good outcome in the circumstances, a result which would have kept the unbeaten run going.
“That’s where experience comes in of being streetwise enough to just see the game out.”
Hibs’ next two matches are, coincidentally, against two of Rae’s former clubs, away to Hamilton on Saturday followed by a trip to face Partick Thistle, both of them having enjoyed positive results at the weekend, Accies dumping Rangers at Ibrox and the Jags claiming a late point against Hearts on their return to Tynecastle.
However, while he believes Hibs remain favourites to win both games, Rae, who made 433 appearances in a green and white shirt, insisted Hamilton and Partick will see the visits of the Capital club as just as vital to their own aspirations.
He said: “Hibs are the bigger club and will be expected to go and win but Accies and Thistle know points are equally as important to them. The both had great results at the weekend and they’ll look to build on that.
“But as far as Hibs are concerned, they have to treat the defeat by St Johnstone as a blip and not allow it to become any more than that. It’s easy to say it’s going to be six points, but you have to go and play believing that’s what is going to happen.
“Having said that, there are surprise results every week in the Premiership, real coupon busters. Hibs themselves were only a couple of minutes away from doing that against Celtic at Parkhead.
“Hamilton’s win over Hibs in Edinburgh at the start of the season was probably looked on as being that at the time but Saturday isn’t about revenge, just another of the 38 games they’ll play this season in which three points are at stake.
“I’m sure people will have looked at the St Johnstone result following those wins and said: ‘That’s Hibs for you’. But other than Celtic I think most clubs are striving for consistency and I am sure that’s what Neil Lennon and Garry Parker are striving for.
“It’s a difficult thing to get, to turn in the same performances against the other clubs as you do at Parkhead or Ibrox.
“Last weekend was undoubtedly a disappointment but over the course of the season you are going to get a few games like that.
“I’m sure Neil Lennon will have been right on top of his players this week reminding them that only a couple of weeks ago they were playing superbly and getting great results.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching Hibs play, they are very exciting to watch, they get folk on the edge of their seats.
“They have genuine pace on either flank with Martin Boyle and Brandon Barker and as a former defender myself I know guys coming at you with their speed terrifies you.
“Simon Murray and Anthony Stokes put in a real shift up front making it hard for defenders and defensively I think Hibs are pretty good.
“The fact they are doing well is reflected in the crowds at Easter Road, more than 17,000 at the weekend, as it has been for most games, is fantastic. I was at the Hearts game and the atmosphere was great, under the lights and winning the derby. It must be a great selling point for the manager, other than Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen where else are you going to get that as a player?”