Dylan McGeouch warns rivals Hibs will keep getting stronger

Midfielder Dylan McGeouch believes Hibs have ironed out some of the problems that plagued the team last season. Pic: SNS
Midfielder Dylan McGeouch believes Hibs have ironed out some of the problems that plagued the team last season. Pic: SNS
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Dylan McGEOUCH believes the influence of new boss Neil Lennon is already beginning to bring its rewards after Hibs clocked up a third successive Championship victory.

The 100 per cent start is in stark contrast to the past couple of seasons in which the Easter Road side contrived to lose two of their first three opening matches, leaving them to play catch-up for the remainder of those campaigns, both of which resulted in the Capital outfit failing to secure promotion.

It is, of course, early days with a long road yet to unwind but, insisted McGeouch, the signs are promising with the changes Lennon has sought to instil coming to the fore.

From day one Lennon demanded that his players get the ball into the opposition penalty area more quickly and more often, pointing out that for all Hibs were widely regarded as an attractive, attacking side, they had, in fact, managed just 59 goals in their 36 Championship matches last season.

The goals might not yet have begun to flow as Lennon might wish, the former Celtic manager having admitted following each of the victories over Falkirk, Dunfermline and now St Mirren that his side might have scored more.

But, after becoming the first Hibs team to win their first three league games in 42 years, McGeouch expressed his confidence he and his team-mates will soon be claiming more than the two they’ve managed in each of their games so far whilst stressing the primary objective in any match is to take the three points as they have done.

Having already signed goalkeepers Ross Laidlaw and Ofir Marciano – although the Israeli internationalist’s debut has been held up by immigration red tape – and striker Grant Holt, Lennon further strengthened his squad with a season-long deal for Birmingham City’s Andrew Shinnie and a two-year contract for Ross County forward Brian Graham, both of whom made debuts as substitutes against the Buddies.

And that, McGeouch insisted, was a further sign of the “tweaking” his boss has felt last season’s Scottish Cup winning squad required, although Lennon has also repeatedly expressed his satisfaction with the quality of player he inherited from his predecessor Alan Stubbs. McGeouch said: “The lads the gaffer has brought in are of great quality. It is healthy for the team to have a lot of competition, especially in midfield. Everyone is fighting for positions and while we are a close bunch of boys we are pushing each other in training every day to get better.

“You can see that in the games, we are getting performances and results. I think the boss inherited a squad full of confidence and quality and it was just a matter of tweaking here and there.

“I think he watched most of the games last season and I believe he’s been impressed by the quality we have, even in training. We’ve shown how good we are as a team, a good footballing side – but he just wanted to change a couple of things.”

The results of that tinkering, McGeouch believes, are already apparent, saying: “I think you can see that now, we are pretty solid, not giving goals away cheaply. We are dealing with crosses into the box. Perhaps last season we suffered a little bit in that regard. It’s the little things that make the difference and I think you can see it 
coming together nicely.

“We’ve always been a good footballing side but now we don’t give the opposition many chances.”

The most obvious difference for supporters under Lennon, McGeouch believes, will be their ability to “mix it up,” giving them a foil to those sides that pitched up at Easter Road and “parked the bus” in a 
blatant attempt to escape with a point or to snatch all three with a strike on the break.

He said: “Last season we played good football, but sometimes we overplayed it rather than getting the ball into the box. Now if teams match us up we can go long. Grant and Brian coming in is great. They have experience and are a handful. It’s good to be able to mix it up and not become too predictable.

“If teams want to come and camp in we can get the ball wide and put it into the box. You find it hard to break down any team that sits in and tries to hit you on the counter. Perhaps that was our downfall last season, playing too much in front of teams but now if they sit back we can get on the ball and spray it about.

“And, if we find ourselves under pressure we can put it down the channels and play off second balls, it’s great to have both in our locker.”

McGeouch admitted he was surprised to learn Hibs hadn’t won their opening three league games since the start of the 1974/75 season but joked that having broken the club’s 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo it hardly bore comparison.

He said: “It’s good to keep breaking records that have been there a long time, it was a great wee milestone for us but now we want to kick on and make it a lot more than three.

“St Mirren caused us a few problems last season, we had a couple of draws against them. They are a good team, a good squad and we know going to Paisley is always difficult so it was pleasing to get the win.”

Having said that, McGeouch agreed with Lennon’s assertion that the victory could have been more convincing, the Hibs boss delighted to see top scorer Jason Cummings add another two to his tally while claiming his side’s talisman could easily have had a hat-trick and more while he was also left bemoaning a few other near things.

McGeouch said: “If you are going to over analyse the game you could say it could have been a few more. But we are always happy to get the three points and send the fans home happy.

“I thought we were quite convincing, we had a few chances we could have put away but it was a good solid performance both in defence and attack. All round it was a good day. We were delighted to make it three in a row but while we are taking it one game at a time, we want to kick on and make it a lot more than three.”

And having missed the start of the league season with a hamstring problem, McGeouch has his eyes set on fighting off the increasing midfield competition – Fraser Fyvie also 
returned from injury to take a seat on the bench at the weekend – for a place to play his part on a weekly basis.

He said: “It was great to start the game. I’d come on and got some time against Dunfermline and then had a good week’s training. The 90 minutes will do me the world of good so hopefully I can stay injury free.”