Once upon a time Andrew Shinnie would pitch up at Easter Road with Inverness Caley intent on playing a game of frustration.
Keep Hibs quiet for as long as possible and try to turn their own fans against them was, invariably, the prime objective and one in which Caley enjoyed a degree of success.
Now, though, the boot is firmly on the other foot for the Hibs midfielder who has quickly discovered how frustrating it is to be confronted by such tactics, last week’s 1-1 draw against ten-man Falkirk still very fresh in his mind.
Anticipating tomorrow’s visitors Queen of the South may well not stray from such an approach, Shinnie said: “At Caley we’d go to the likes of Rangers, Celtic, Hibs and Hearts and aim to keep it tight for the first 20 or 30 minutes, to keep the crowd quiet and to actually use them by trying to get them on their own players’ backs as they became frustrated.
“It was a case of ‘let’s give them nothing and try to catch them on the break’, and, to be honest, we had some good results.
“I think it’s something most teams coming to Easter Road will try to do so it is up to us to try to remain patient and look to get the first goal which will make things much more comfortable for us.
“At Hibs we are expected to win home and away and we do go into every game looking to win. We never go out thinking we’ll settle for a point, we believe we can win every game.
“Yes, teams will make it difficult for us but we have to be prepared for that and work out how to break them down and that’s something we’ve been working hard on in training all this week.”
The bald matchday statistics from last weekend would suggest it was a game Hibs should have won more than comfortably, 20 shots at goal and 18 corners to Falkirk’s one.
But, admitted Shinnie, Neil Lennon’s players need to display a little bit more finesse inside the last third of the pitch and combine that with ensuring they ditch their costly habit of conceding from set-pieces.
The Bairns claimed the opening goal from that solitary corner they enjoyed, John Baird’s late strike threatening to inflict only a second league defeat of the season on the Capital outfit.
A Paul Hanlon header only a few minutes later salvaged a draw which ensures Hibs go into tomorrow’s match a point ahead of second-placed Dundee United.
And given their next match will be against United at Tannadice in a fortnight’s time – Hibs are idle next weekend because of Scottish Cup ties – Shinnie admitted victory over Queens is all the more important.
He said: “They are all important games but with United next up there is a bit of added significance tomorrow.
“Drawing with Falkirk was disappointing especially as they had Tom Taiwo sent off in the first half but, at the end of the day, we are still top of the league.
“If we win tomorrow we stay top. Of course, it may be more than one point depending on the outcome of United’s game against Morton but we need to take care of ourselves and not worry about that game.”
Given matches between Hibs and Falkirk in the past couple of seasons have been tight the dismissal of Taiwo may have altered the thinking of Bairns boss Peter Houston, encouraging his side to hold out for a point rather than open up in search of all three.
Shinnie, however, revealed he didn’t believe the red card altered Falkirk’s mindset, saying: “I think their game plan was to sit in and hit us on the counter and having a man sent off didn’t change that.
“We had loads of the ball which is normal but we just couldn’t find the gaps or thread passes through. We put in lots of crosses that no-one could get on the end of but that can happen in games.”
Frustration may have mounted by the minute and boiled over when Baird hit Hibs with that sucker punch, but Shinnie admitted he and his team-mates were delighted with the way in which the home support of the more than 14,500 crowd stayed behind their team.
He said: “When fans get increasingly anxious and edgy it can transmit itself on to the pitch and begin to affect the players. They must have been as frustrated as we were last week, particularly when we lost the goal but they’ve backed us superbly all season and they stuck with us and played their part in getting a point although we could well have gone on and won the game after Paul had equalised.”
Shinnie admitted losing a goal to Falkirk’s only corner of the game and failing to capitalise on the 18 Hibs had won was an irritation for all, a defence which is the second best in Britain to only Tottenham Hotspur annoyed to concede again from a set-piece while those further forward were kicking themselves for not having made the most of the dominance displayed throughout the game.
The on-loan Birmingham City player said: “Losing a goal from a set-piece has been a bit of a downfall for us recently. Opposition teams haven’t looked like scoring from open play then they get a corner, a knock-down from it and a goal.
“That’s something we need to stop while we also need to get more goals from corners and free-kicks ourselves. You have to give Falkirk credit for defending well, throwing bodies in front of the ball but on another day those shots which were deflected just wide will end up creeping in at the post.
“If we can get the first goal, ideally as early as possible, it makes things all the more comfortable for us. It means that if the other team are wanting to take anything at all from the game they are going to have to open up a bit which will only help us by creating that bit more space.
“But although the outcome last week was disappointing we shouldn’t forget we won our three previous games and scored eight goals in the process.”
Queens arrive in Edinburgh having ended a run of four straight league defeats with an Irn-Bru Cup win over Alloa Athletic, former Hibs striker Stephen Dobbie claiming both their goals and he is the obvious threat to his old club along with his fellow frontman Derek Lyle.
“We have to be aware of them,” admitted Shinnie, “They are quality players but our lads at the back are doing really well. They’ll give them the respect they are due, but not too much. I’m sure they’ll be right on top of them and then it will be up to us to go and get the goals.”