Forty-five minutes into a wet and dreary trip to Lanarkshire, there had been little indication for the travelling group of Hibs supporters that the struggling players were going to sufficiently raise their game to secure an elusive victory so badly needed.
However, things improved immensely for Neil Lennon’s men with the introduction of two substitutes. Emerson Hyndman, making only his second appearance for the club since the last time the teams met in early October, came off the bench to replace Martin Boyle in first half injury-time after the winger suffered concussion in a clash with Accies keeper Gary Woods. Hyndman was soon joined by Daryl Horgan, who helped Hibs finally break through with a terrific back-post cross for Oli Shaw to finish.
It would prove to be the only goal of the game as the Easter Road club finally got the monkey off their backs, earning a first win in over two months and ending a seven-game skid.
“I think the first half we did okay, but the second half, when Emerson came on, he changed it for us,” admitted assistant boss Garry Parker. “Here is a player who comes on, who wants the ball. And when he is on the ball, moving it, passing it, it rubs off. You could see by the end that we were passing the ball about quite well and we deserved the goal as well.
“We’ve had a few players out so that is no excuse but to have him back on the park made a difference. Also Darryl Horgan... his contribution for the goal. The subs made a difference. We thought we would put Lewis Stevenson back at left-back, get Daryl into the hole and he would get on the ball. He’s put a good cross in and it was a good finish from Oli. We had some good chances in the second half. We are happy with the three points but we could have scored more I think.”
Also coming to life in the second period was Swiss striker Florian Kamberi. Such a vitally important player for Hibs last season, the 23-year-old has struggled to maintain the same sort of form this season. He hit his nadir in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with St Mirren where he was hauled off after just 54 minutes and publicly criticised by Parker for his performance.
The management team had previously tried to limit condemnation of their first-team stars in a bid to avoid further eroding confidance, though they finally felt it was the right time to tell some home truths and were pleased with the reaction they received.
Asked if it was a gamble criticising the players, Parker responded: “Not really; it needed to be said. It doesn’t bother me one bit – I’ll tell ’em. And you could see a difference in Flo Kamberi today. He put himself about, had a few shots and their keeper has had a great save from him.
“They’ll feel better about themselves, of course they will. When you’re not getting results week after week it’s a case of sleepless nights – I’ve been having them, I tell you.”
Saturday’s match at the Hope CBD Stadium had one highly unusual element to it. Three of the four goalkeepers who were named on the initial team-sheet would pick up injuries before the afternoon was out. Hibs goalie Adam Bogdan sustained a groin problem in the warm-up, which enabled Ofir Marciano to make his first appearance of the season, while Accies lost both Jan Mucha and Gary Woods. Jacob Marsden, who was drafted on to the substitutes’ bench when Mucha also hurt himself in the warm-up, was pitched in at half-time after Woods picked up a knock. He made a string of impressive saves that frustrated Hibs before the goal, and he continued to do so afterwards as they pushed to put the victory beyond doubt. It meant for a few nervy moments in the closing stages as Accies won free-kicks around the away penalty box.
Parker, who congratulated Marsden on his performance as the two passed each other in the media room, added: “We thought when they brought the young man on that we’d try and test him but he made a couple of good saves and fair play to him.”