Neil Lennon has hailed Efe Ambrose as one of the best centre halves Hibs have had for “a long, long time” after watching the Nigerian internationalist turn in another impressive performance to help the Easter Road side clinch a third successive Premiership win.
A David Gray header, the club captain’s fifth strike of the season, was enough to steer the Edinburgh outfit to victory over struggling St Mirren, but while again bemoaning his side’s profligacy in front of goal, Lennon was delighted with yet another clean sheet.
Ambrose was rock-solid in the centre of defence as Hibs did just enough to take the points, keeping them very much in touch with their Capital rivals Hearts at the head of the table.
Lennon, who brought Ambrose to Celtic from Israeli side Ashdod only to see him end up much-maligned by some Hoops fans following a couple of high-profile mistakes, described the defender’s current form as “magnificent”.
“You don’t play for Celtic for four years and be a bad player,” he said. “There were a couple of mistakes but we are seeing that a lot at Celtic, and I don’t think people are getting treated the way Efe did. We have given him a home. You can see his class. He is probably one of the best centre halves Hibs have had for a long, long time. What he does is give us an extra dimension to the way we want to play and when he really puts his mind at ease he is a top-class player. We are seeing the fruits of that at the minute, Efe has been magnificent. He is in a good place and long may that continue as he’s been very influential for us recently.”
Another shutout also delighted Lennon, who said: “That was a criticism of us earlier in the season but the most important thing was we won. The players are giving me everything. I can’t ask much more of them, apart from putting the ball in the net and making my life a lot more comfortable.”
Oran Kearney was frustrated at the officials’ inability to award a free-kick to his team when Hibs scored the winning goal. Kearney said: “The set-piece for the Hibs goal is something they have trained and it’s supposed to be eradicated, but (Florian) Kamberi and Gray were at the back post and we had two men marking them.
“Gray comes past Kamberi’s shoulder and Kamberi just stands and grabs for three seconds with two arms round our players.
“I understand screening goes on and there’s bits and pieces of contact. If it’s a split second and there’s a bump, it’s hard for referees and linesmen. If they make the call at the time, we are in at half-time at 0-0 and we have even more of a chance of taking something. These are the fine margins.”