Dylan McGeouch has called on his Hibs colleagues to banish any lingering exasperation from their defeat by Rangers in order to reignite their challenge for second place in tomorrow’s high-stakes showdown in Aberdeen.
Despite a rousing display at Easter Road on Wednesday which had the Ibrox side on the back foot for long periods, Hibs ended up losing 2-1. The home players were stunned and demoralised in equal measure by their inability to make their superiority count on a night when bad finishing, bad goalkeeping, bad refereeing and bad luck contributed to their downfall and left them six points adrift of both Rangers and Aberdeen in the battle for second place. McGeouch knows Hibs can’t afford to fall nine points behind by losing this weekend and insists they must retain their focus in the wake of their midweek disappointment.
“We were gutted after Wednesday but we’ll pick ourselves up and go again at Pittodrie,” the midfielder told the Evening News. “It’s a massive game that we need to win. We’re six points behind them now so we need to get a result to stop a gap opening up between us and the top three. We need to keep the pressure on, so hopefully we can come away with three points.”
Reflecting on Wednesday’s defeat, when Rangers pair Josh Windass and Alfredo Morelos capitalised on a few slack minutes from Hibs before half-time to cancel out Lewis Stevenson’s opener, McGeouch’s frustration remains evident. Not for the first time this season, this was an occasion when Hibs’ points return failed to reflect the overall strength of their performance.
“Over the 90 minutes, I thought we were the better team,” said McGeouch. “We passed the ball well, cut them open and had a lot of chances, particularly in the second half, when we hit the post a couple of times and had balls flashing across the middle of the goal begging for someone to tap it in. But we had a crazy five minutes where we gifted them two goals. As a team, we’ve got to be keeping those two goals out. They’d have been delighted to go in 2-1 up at half-time because it gave them something to hold on to.
“It was a weird feeling at half-time, disbelief really. We had been playing well, were dominating the game and had been under no pressure but then had a couple of moments of madness that threw us off course. We regrouped at half-time, came out at the start of the second half and got into our rhythm again. We put the pressure on in the second half but we just couldn’t get the goal. We were the team on the up and I think if we’d have got an equaliser, we might have gone on to win it.
“But this is football, you need to put the ball in the net. It’s alright having all the good play but it’s goals that matter. Ultimately it was a defeat and we’re not happy about it.”
After holding firm for their three points, Rangers players and management celebrated in front of their 4000 jubilant supporters in a scene which indicated that this was no ordinary three points for them.
“The Rangers fans were entitled to celebrate because it’s a great win for them,” said McGeouch. “It shows you where we are as a team and a club that teams of the calibre of Rangers are so happy to get a victory here. You could see how much it meant to their fans, their manager and their players to come to Easter Road and win – they know it’s a hard place to come. We can take some credit for that, but at the end of the day we need to be winning games like Wednesday’s.”
McGeouch, who sets himself high standards, has been in no mind to find solace from another impressive midfield display from himself. “I can’t take any consolation from my own performance when we lose a game like that,” he said. “When the team loses, I don’t care if I played well or not. I’m not bothered about that. I’m just gutted that we didn’t get the three points after playing so well.”
McGeouch makes the trip to Pittodrie this weekend buoyed by the knowledge that he is in the midst of the richest vein of form in his career. While his talent has never been in doubt, he has been unable to play consistently due to a spate of injury problems since joining Hibs three years ago.
Playing regularly this season, without fitness issues to contend with, has helped him take his game to a new level. He has already started more games this term (14 in the league and 19 in total) than he managed in the entirety of the last campaign (11 in the league and 16 in total).
“I’ve had quite a few games where I feel I’ve done pretty well and I’ve been getting quite a lot of credit off the pitch which is nice,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back playing regularly, contributing to the team and playing good football, considering last year when I had quite a few wee niggles.”
McGeouch is out of contract this summer, with supporters anxious to see their burgeoning midfield tempo-dictator him extend his deal before any other clubs pounce. “There’s been some talk between my agent and the club,” the 24-year-old confirmed. “It’s early doors yet. We’ll deal with that when it comes to it. I’m enjoying my football just now, so we’ll see what happens.”