Christian Doidge opens up on his bad luck, fitness levels, Hibs performances, and the quality of Kevin Nisbet
They say bad luck comes in threes, which is why Hibs striker Christian Doidge is desperately hoping for a bit of good fortune after an Achilles injury, red card at Ross County, and the illness that forced him to miss a bounce game last week.
Ruled out of the 2-1 win at St Johnstone and the 1-0 defeat by Rangers in midweek after the club unsuccessfully appealed the dismissal in Dingwall, the 28-year-old was primed for involvement in a bounce game against Dunfermline last Tuesday, only to be struck down by illness that not only forced him to miss the match but also training until Friday morning.
"I hope that’s it,” he sighs. “I always say I’ve been so lucky in my career – touch wood – that I’ve been injury-free and haven’t missed a lot of football.
"But this seems to have all come at once. Hopefully I'm on the other end of it now. It was a hard, hard week last week.
"I only really trained once, and it was the day before the game. I've just got to get on with it. We’ve got another big game on Wednesday that hopefully I'll play a part of.”
Doidge has been a big miss for Hibs this season, the “goals for” column in the table looking surprisingly low for a team with the firepower of Martin Boyle, Kevin Nisbet, and the Welshman, who all hit double figures last season, at its disposal.
Supporters, too, are keen to see the number nine back on the pitch and doing what he does best. So… could he play 90 minutes right now, if required?
“I would like to say yes, but I think the the medical team and the physios wouldn't be too pleased,” he admits.
"But I’m willing to do whatever the manager asks of me. Obviously I missed a big chunk of pre-season with Covid and then coming back and getting the injury meant I missed even more so it has been difficult.
"I haven’t been able to do as much running as I’d like but I’ve got to keep going. It’s a really busy schedule so hopefully I’ll be involved in a lot of games and get that match-sharpness back.”
Hibs make the short trip to West Lothian in midweek, to a venue at which they, and other teams, have struggled in the past, but Doidge and the rest of the dressing room remain confident that things will turn in their favour, and when better to start than at the Tony Macaroni Arena?
"We’re frustrated with the run we’re on but we've got to be positive. We know in the last few games that we’ve put in really good performances,” he continues.
"On Saturday the performance from the lads was good, even when they got the goal and equalised we were still grafting away. Everyone’s working really hard.
"In the second half especially, we had a lot of chances but were just a bit unlucky really – we hit the crossbar, balls off the line – it just wasn’t our day, but we keep grinding away.”
Performances like those against Rangers at Hampden and St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park prove that this Hibs team, when everything clicks, are a formidable opponent and Doidge is adamant that it won’t take much for things to slot into place.
"We should have beaten Motherwell, and we definitely should have got something against Rangers, so we’re remaining positive. We’ve got a big game on Wednesday, we need to go on a run, and I think we could possibly start it on Wednesday. Everyone’s looking forward to it,” he insists.
“Football is a tricky old game when you're not on a good run; you seem not to pick up much luck.
"Look at us last season: some games we didn’t play particularly well but we got the result. This year, we haven’t really got the rub of the green but we’ve just go to keep working hard.
Doidge took a while to get up and running for Hibs following his move from Forest Green Rovers, so the 28-year-old knows only too well the frustrating nature of missed chances. His strike-partner Nisbet had numerous chances against the Steelmen at the weekend but was unable to add to his first-half strike, even when Hibs set up camp in the Motherwell penalty area late on.
Doidge and Nisbet formed a lethal partnership last season with both players reaching double figures along with the versatile Boyle and while the Welshman has been frustrated at not being able to continue that link this season, he is backing Nisbet to keep playing well and getting the goals his performances deserve.
The former Dunfermline hitman scored his second goal in three games at the weekend but his all-round play over the last few games has been deserving of more. He scored a hat-trick at Livingston last season but regardless of his tally in West Lothian tomorrow night, Doidge is keen to highlight the effort his partner has been putting in up top.
"Kev is such a young player and he’s going to have bad and good games,” he points out.
“But, especially in the last few games, I think he’s been exceptional. Against Motherwell he got the goal and worked so hard, and even when I went on with him late on he was bossing defenders around, and I thought he did really well.
"Obviously he was just unlucky with a few of the chances but he’s getting himself in the right positions, he’s a goalscorer, and he’s going to get on the end of crosses.
"Goals will come with him because he is such a good player.”