A simple plan - Hibs bright spark reveals gaffer's instructions to wide men

Jordan Obita drives down the wing for Hibs.Jordan Obita drives down the wing for Hibs.
Jordan Obita drives down the wing for Hibs.
Deliveries from flanks crucial to Monty's ambitious blueprint

In a team not exactly firing on all cylinders, a few flickers of promise were bound to catch the eye. On the eve of Scottish elite football returning from its midwinter shutdown, Hibs will have to hope that a couple of bright sparks who lit up the first half of the season continue to shine. The alternative hardly bears contemplation.

Regardless of who does or doesn’t pitch up at East Mains before the transfer window closes, Nick Montgomery’s men will continue to play in a 4-4-2 formation that relies on certain core principles of play to make it work. Chief among those is the ability to generate and use width.

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Which is why, even during some of the most frustrating experiences suffered by Hibs fans over the closing stretch of 2023, so many admiring eyes were drawn to the left flank of a team in dire need of creativity in the final third. Not merely because Jair Tavares continues to be a great comeback story. But because Tavares and supporting left back Jordan Obita have become absolutely crucial to everything Montgomery wants to see from his team.

And that means putting in crosses, with the duo expected to reach double figures when it comes to deliveries into the opposition penalty box. Monty wants to hit opponents before they can get set. Then repeat until the line is broken.

Tavares has become key to Hibs on left wing.Tavares has become key to Hibs on left wing.
Tavares has become key to Hibs on left wing.

Obita, revealing some of the direction he’s received from the coaching staff, insists he’s found a perfect on-field partner in Tavares, saying: “I love playing with Jair, he’s such a good player. And the gaffer wants us to get balls into the box as quickly as possible. That’s my game. I like playing really high and trying to get those balls in for the strikers to attack.

“Wherever I’ve been, I’ve felt that managers have looked to me as a creative player. I’ve always enjoyed putting in crosses that can lead to chances and goals.

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“The gaffer here has told me that I need to put quality balls into the box – especially when big Christian Doidge is playing at centre forward. So there is a bit of pressure on me to deliver with quality. But I back myself to put in a couple in every game. If I keep doing that, we’ll start converting them.”

Halfway through his first season in Scotland, former Wycombe fullback Obita is adapting to life in a very different footballing environment. One where a lot of opponents seem to take great delight, he says, in stifling the creativity of the league’s more ambitious teams.

Assessing his own performance, the 30-year-old said: “I think I’ve started really well – but I can always do more. I really want to get in among the goals and assists. But it’s a tough, tough league.

“Look at the last game, even, when Motherwell had ten players behind the ball and made it really tough for us. Back in England, teams would come out and try to pressure you. I always feel we’ve got the quality in this team to break teams down and get goals.

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“And our game plan doesn’t change whether we’re playing Celtic, Rangers or Kilmarnock, Motherwell, whoever it is. We try to play the same way, always. I believe that you should always try to attack. You would rather attack and lose than defend and lose.

“You saw when we played at Celtic at Easter Road, we stick to our style. We have a style of play that involves passing our way through teams. And, if the opposition play a high line, we try to play balls in behind them. We always want to have most possession of the ball, whether that’s against Celtic or a team near the bottom of the table. It’s how we can win games.”

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