There’s a photograph hanging in the home of Darren McGregor’s mum which, the Hibs defender admits, he’ll cherish forever.
It captures the moment at Stark’s Park when he scored his first goal for the Easter Road side, one which proved of huge significance not only for the Leith-born player but the Edinburgh outfit itself.
The plaque underneath reads “Hibs’ 1000th goal in the Scottish Cup”. However, what it doesn’t say is that it was the one which sent Hibs on their way to Hampden glory, ending their 114-year search for their own “Holy Grail”.
The 2-0 victory over Raith Rovers – Dominique Malonga added the second only minutes later – was followed by wins over Hearts, Inverness Caley, Dundee United and, ultimately, Rangers, sparking mass “Hibsteria” on the east side of the Capital.
However, McGregor insisted that if he was to repeat that feat in Kirkcaldy today he’d enjoy the moment every bit as much as that strike last January, particularly if it leads to Hibs ending a run of four games without a win, one which has seen the title favourites toppled from the top of the Championship table.
He said: “I’d take that goal again – a mis-hit past the goalkeeper. I’m reminded about it every time I go into my mum’s house. It’s one I can look back on and I’ll cherish it for the rest of my days. I’d savour one today just as much because it’s a difficult place to go and we are on a poor run at the minute. This is a new season and different circumstances, but we need to bounce back because, of all the games we have dropped points in or lost, the one against St Mirren last week was the most disappointing.
“We need to show a response and it needs to be character-building for the team. I honestly believe we can kick-start our season.”
Like everyone else at Easter Road, McGregor is at a loss as to explain how a run of five straight wins – which had many talking of Hibs racing away with the title – has unravelled, only two points out of a possible nine taken in addition to that Irn-Bru Cup exit at the hands of his old club.
The 31-year-old said: “If I knew how this run happened, I would say so.
“But every team in the country – in the world – suffers dips in performance. I just hope this has been ours. Last year, we had one that snowballed into a run of bad results.
“We really let ourselves down against Ayr and St Mirren and that has been addressed. We are aware of the expectations at the club and it’s about meeting them.”
Hibs have held the lead in three of their last four matches but have been unable to retain it, prompting manager Neil Lennon to insist his players need to learn how to manage a game better.
McGregor fully agrees with that opinion, pointing out: “In the games we have conceded, bar Falkirk, we have gone on to either lose or draw. We need to get our backs up when we concede rather than going into our shells. We know we have good players and we need to deal with the situation and do our jobs.”
As title favourites, Lennon’s players are regarded by many opposition sides as the scalp to take, but, insisted McGregor: “It’s always going to be the case that teams raise their games against us. We know that and we need to raise our game and grind out results. At the start of the season, we were doing that but one bad result seems to have snowballed a bit into a couple of mediocre performances.
“It’s about rectifying that and trying to stay positive knowing we are not a bad team overnight. It’s easy to get negative and see the bad in everything but I’d rather look at the squad we have and the potential here.”
Last season, Hibs endured a shaky start but a League Cup win against Stranraer, courtesy of an own goal followed by a win against Raith sparked a run which saw Alan Stubbs’ side lose just once in 28 matches.
And McGregor believes it won’t take much to swing things Hibs’ way again.
He said: “The Stranraer game was my first for Hibs and the same can happen again. If we go to Raith and win then it can kick-start another great run. It can just take one game.”
McGregor admitted Lennon was raging after the loss to St Mirren, the manager having described the first-half performance as “insipid” and their defending for what proved to be the winning goal as “amateur stuff”.
But McGregor had no complaints, saying: “The gaffer is a winner and motivates us in a way which is a little different from Alan Stubbs. But I knew exactly what he would be like having watched him as a player and the way he carries himself. It’s the same as a manager.
“He was angry, very angry after the St Mirren game and it would be worrying if he wasn’t.
“We just need to take a leaf out of his book and get back to winning ways by showing that same aggression and intensity.”