Emerson Hyndman is hoping his strong performance against Aberdeen on Tuesday can act as a launchpad for his Hibs career.
The 22-year-old American arrived at Easter Road on a season-long loan from Bournemouth at the start of August and admits it has been a challenge to find optimum form and fitness levels after being restricted to only two starts and two substitute appearances for his parent club last term.
After flitting in and out of the starting line-up in his early weeks at Hibs, Hyndman produced his most promising display yet in a green-and-white shirt when he shone in an impressive performance by the Edinburgh side as they outplayed Aberdeen for long periods of Tuesday’s Betfred Cup quarter-final before succumbing on penalties after a goalless draw in regulation time.
“I’ve enjoyed myself here but it’s been quite tough because last year I didn’t get much game time so I’ve had to try and build up my fitness up as quickly as possible, which is never easy,” Hyndman said.
“I’ve had to be patient because I’m quite hard on myself when it comes to my performance and things like that, so I’ve had to recognise that it might take a bit of time. At the same time, I wanted to help out as soon as I could.
“It was nice to come back into the team on Tuesday. I felt that was the most comfortable I’ve felt in a game since I’ve been here. I felt involved in the game from the start. I felt like I was close to scoring a couple of times and I put some other players through. That was the first time I felt like I had created clear opportunities on a regular basis, so it’s something I can definitely build on.”
Although the Betfred Cup exit took the wind out of Hibs’ sails after two consecutive league wins, Hyndman insists the positive aspects of their general play can give them enough encouragement to offset any lingering disappointment as they head to Paisley to face struggling St Mirren tomorrow.
“Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted but we looked positive, created chances and on another day could have won by a decent scoreline,” said Hyndman. “Aberdeen are a good team who are tough to play against but I felt the flow of the game was always in our favour. The result was devastating but we can be positive about the way we played good going into the weekend.”
Hibs spurned a host of opportunities in midweek but, with six goals in their previous two matches, Hyndman is confident that their attack-minded players will swiftly be back on the goal trail. “We’ve had decent form in the league and we’ve shown in the past we can score plenty of goals,” he said. “It was just unfortunate that somehow it didn’t go in for us on Tuesday. We’ll hopefully put that right against St Mirren. We know it won’t be easy but regardless of the result the other night, we’re coming off the back of a performance where we can hold our heads up and say ‘it just wasn’t our day’. We’re confident going into it.”
Much of this belief is down to the notion that Neil Lennon’s new-look Hibs side are starting to gel after a summer of transition. Hyndman believes that it was only natural that his new team would struggle to find instant harmony but, after three strong performances against Kilmarnock, Dundee and Aberdeen, he senses they are heading in the right direction.
“We’ve had a lot of new players coming in, including myself, so it’s been a case of bonding and getting to know everyone and the way everyone wants to play,” said Hyndman. “You need to get used to working with each other, and I think we’re starting to see the benefits of that now because everyone’s on the same page and you can see partnerships forming, whereas before it was maybe a case of not knowing exactly what each player would do. We now look like a team that knows what each other is doing.”
Midfield has been the area of the Hibs team that has undergone the most change in recent months, with John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan moving on and Hyndman, Daryl Horgan, Mark Milligan and Stevie Mallan arriving to fill the gaps. Hyndman is happy playing anywhere in the engine room but feels most at home in a creative role.
“I always want to contribute in all aspects of the game but my main target is to help the team by getting chances at goal and helping others get into good areas,” he said. “I’ve probably played everywhere in the midfield – central midfield, attacking midfield, out on the left and I’ve even played No.6 sometimes. I just play wherever I’m called upon but I’m naturally a more attacking player.
“I felt it flowed quite nicely between myself, Stevie and Milly the other night. I was happy with the number of chances we created.”