Comment: Hibs need to delve back into memory banks

A good advocate could possibly piece together a decent case for the Hibs defence.

By Moira Gordon
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 7:00 am
Hibs' early season form helped earn Paul Hanlon and Ryan Porteous a Scotland call-up. But, as a team, the recent defensive record has not been good enough. Photo by Mark Scates/SNS Group)
Hibs' early season form helped earn Paul Hanlon and Ryan Porteous a Scotland call-up. But, as a team, the recent defensive record has not been good enough. Photo by Mark Scates/SNS Group)

After all, in recent games, the Capital club has played their biggest rivals, a team who have dominated the Scottish footballing landscape for almost a decade, an Aberdeen side who have been regular challengers at the top of the table and a St Johnstone outfit with a decent record of matching the home side at Easter Road.

But, even taking that plea of mitigation on board, it is not surprising that Hibs manager Jack Ross has voiced some concern about his team’s defensive qualities.

Inheriting a side that was too flaky when it came to keeping clean sheets, it was an issue that they thought they had addressed.

Sign up to our Hibs football newsletter

Relentless drills, organising, and analysis, allied to some careful signings, had seen them re-emerge from the detritus of last term, the lengthy lockdown and pre-season as a far more sturdy entity.

There was also value in finding a shape that suited the personnel at the club and allowed them to defend more stubbornly as a unit, while maintaining the obvious capacity to attack. It all combined to make them one of the most miserly sides in the top flight.

But there have been chinks in that armour since the semi-final against Hearts and while they lost just 11 goals in the first 15 games of the season, in all competitions, they have conceded almost as many in the last five matches, losing nine in the head to heads with Hearts, Aberdeen, Dundee, Celtic and St Johnstone.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw with Callum Davidson's men this week, Ross said Hibs were becoming easy to score against again. “We’ve become ever so slightly soft again. We need to change that.”

If they can, they know what they are capable of, having enjoyed the rewards of the sturdiness earlier in the campaign.

“Ironically we’ve played better in possession over the last couple of months. It’s about getting both right,” added Ross.

Until recently, only Rangers and Celtic had better defensive records, although November results mean that Aberdeen have now edged ahead of them too, in that regard.

But signposting a way out of their mini-dip stands the first quarter of the league season, where the defensive form earned many international call ups.

After the first 11 games, the team could boast the best return of any Hibs team since 2009/10 when it came to winning matches.

The defence provided the foundations on which the team could build that momentum and if they can start adding to their seven cleans sheets or limiting opponents, then there is every chance that the results will improve, given the obvious goal threat throughout the squad.

Paul McGinn’s midweek contribution took the number of Hibs goalscorers this term to 12, and that potency comes from the main strikers, from the flanks, across the midfield, the backline and even from the substitutes bench, where Ross has options.

They just need to delve back into the memory banks and remember what made them so tough to break down.

Ross will be working on that in training as they seek to regain their equilibrium and quell the sense of frustration.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.