Five games, five tests - what represents pass marks for Hibs coaching staff under pressure?

Dingwall on my mind - do Hibs need to win in Highlands for sake of self-respect?Dingwall on my mind - do Hibs need to win in Highlands for sake of self-respect?
Dingwall on my mind - do Hibs need to win in Highlands for sake of self-respect?
Final stretch of ‘meaningless’ games now vital to restoring confidence in gaffer

Nobody involved in the statement of intent said the quiet part out loud. And nothing is ever clear-cut in an opaque business like football. But has Nick Montgomery effectively been given a five-game stretch to prove that he’s the right man to lead Hibs into a new age of raised sights and heightened expectations?

There are only so many ways you can interpret the “results need to improve” line in last night’s communique issued by the Easter Road board. Whatever “understanding” was reached in talks between directors and managers, a lot is clearly resting on a series of fixtures ranging from the unappealing to the downright grim. At lest they can no longer be considered meaningless games.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As Montgomery looks to improve his standing with owners and investors openly declaring their intent to establish Hibs as the undisputed third force in Scottish football, then, what are we talking about, specifically, in terms of wins and losses? Let’s take a look at the contests with the potential to influence the ongoing review of all football operations – and impact heavily on the manager’s future prospects:

St Johnstone (A) – Saturday, April 27

Pretty much a barometer of any Scottish Premiership team’s general health. Kilmarnock won comfortably in Perth just before the split. A week after Hibs had been beaten by Craig Levein’s team at Easter Road, courtesy of another late goal conceded in front of a frustrated home crowd.

Anyone who was at McDiarmid Park for the visit of Hibs on December 16 of last year, of course, will recognise that as a date that will live in infamy. Monty’s men started the afternoon within touching distance of third place, having won four out of their previous five matches. But a 1-0 defeat marked the start of a downward spiral – eight league games without a win – from which Hibs have never entirely recovered.

Saints are no more or less formidable than they were then, having won just three games in 2024, beating Ross County, Aberdeen and, of course, Hibs. Another defeat here would be almost unthinkable.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ross County (A) - Saturday, May 4

More flashbacks for the hardy veterans who returned from a Wednesday night in Dingwall with thousand-yard stares and a persistent twitch that goes off any time a linesman awards a throw-in. Any Hibs fan there for the duration of that March 13 clash in the Highlands is entitled to excuse themselves from a return trip.

Unfortunately, Monty and his men can’t sit this one out. County are a team transformed under Don Cowie. They’re certain to still be in a scrap to avoid finishing in the relegation play-off place. Which would make a victory here a statement result, of sorts, for Hibs. And there haven’t been many of those this season.

Aberdeen (H) – Sunday, May 12

A meeting of disordered minds. A clash between two clubs who have no business being in the bottom half of the table, considering how much they spend on wages and transfer fees. Money never won a game of football, eh?

The Dons will still be waiting for their new manager, meaning their players will have no great clarity over his expectations and philosophy. That sort of uncertainty can’t be helpful.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Any home games against opponents from the ‘wrong’ end of the table have to be considered must-win fixtures. Anything less than victory here would make life very difficult for the coaching staff.

Motherwell (H) – Wednesday, May 15

Urgh. Too soon. For both teams, probably. Each had a chance to vault themselves into the top six when they last met at Fir Park just a few days ago, now. The fact that Hibs threw away a winning position made it marginally worse for the visitors.

Again, it’s a home game. Against opponents who can hardly be described as elite. Must win.

Livingston (A) – Sunday, May 19

Surely to goodness. Livi will already be relegated by then. Although their win at Easter Road back in August did for Lee Johnson, his successor has carved out back-to-back victories over David Martindale’s team in the two games since.

A third triumph would feel like scant consolation for all that has gone before in this campaign of woe. But it’s an essential if Hibs are to move forward with any kind of confidence.

Related topics: