Hibs 2022/23 fixture analysis: Lee Johnson baptism of fire, tough start, festive test, scheduling quirk

Now that the Scottish Premiership fixtures for the 2022/23 season have been unveiled, Hibs’ season is beginning to take shape.

Friday, 17th June 2022, 11:06 am
Updated Friday, 17th June 2022, 11:06 am

As expected, the Easter Road side are away from home on the opening day of the season. Club chiefs requested a road trip just in case the extensive revamp to the West Stand hospitality spaces wasn’t complete in time – but there are hopes that it could be ready for the Norwich City friendly, six days before the start of the campaign.

The side travels to McDiarmid Park to take on a St Johnstone team who maintained their top-flight status thanks to a play-off victory against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in which former Hibee Melker Hallberg played a significant role.

Another familiar face in the curtain-raiser will be Drey Wright, who returned to Perthshire after a two-year stint in the Capital. There is, generally speaking, an unspoken rule that any player turning out for the Saints who has previously represented Hibs must have a stormer against their former employers so it will be an interesting start to the campaign – especially given that St Johnstone is often a tough place to go for most teams.

Sign up to our Hibs football newsletter

Read More

Read More
Hibs: Does streamlined approach to recruitment suggest club is finally learning ...

Hibs will have home games during the League Cup group stages, but hosting Europa League contestants and city rivals Hearts in Lee Johnson’s first home league game should be a tasty encounter – a baptism of fire, if you will.

The new Easter Road boss has already said he is looking forward to a reunion with former team-mate Robbie Neilson.

The derby is scheduled for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday August 6 but there is a very good chance that will change for TV purposes.

Hibs have learned their fixtures for the 2022/23 Scottish Premiership season. Picture: Press Association

Derby dates

The next derby is the new year edition, pencilled in for Monday January 2 2023 in Gorgie at 3pm.

The final pre-split meeting between the old rivals will be played out on Saturday April 15 at Easter Road. As with the initial encounter and indeed many if not all fixtures, they are subject to change for broadcast.

Both sides will be hoping for an additional post-split derby as well.

A tough start?

Just two of Hibs’ opening five games come against sides who finished in the top six last term – Hearts and Rangers – but they also travel to Livingston who, although finishing in the bottom six, defeated Hibs in three out of their four matches last season including in both games at Almondvale.

Johnson was incognito at the final game prior to his appointment, in which Hibs dominated for spells but ultimately lost 1-0, so he will at least have some idea what to expect from a David Martindale side.

St Johnstone-Hearts-Livingston-Rangers-St Mirren is a tough opening run, not least because Hibs failed to beat Hearts or Rangers last season and lost three out of four against Livingston. McDiarmid Park can be an unhappy hunting ground for some teams – indeed, the Capital club don’t have a stellar record there in recent seasons – and the record books show Hibs have won just a third of their 115 matches in Paisley, winning 38, drawing 29 and losing 48 with 143 goals scored and 166 conceded.

Festive test

The ‘winter break’ this season takes place from mid-November to mid-December to accommodate the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Hibs finishing up with a trip to newly-promoted Kilmarnock on November 12 before travelling to Ibrox to face Rangers on December 17 – the day before the World Cup final.

Hibs then host Livingston and Celtic in four days, including a first Christmas Eve fixture since a 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers in 2016, and just a 17th in history, before making the short trip across town to face Hearts in the new year derby meeting.

It looks a tough handful of games but festive fixtures rarely go the way we think. Beaten just once in ten games in late 2020, Hibs lost three games in a week to Rangers, Ross County, and Livingston, conceding six and scoring none while last year, under new management, they posted back-to-back wins against Aberdeen and Dundee United.

Favourable runs

As outlined in the previous section, there are no easy games. One of the joys of football is the unpredictability of it all – Hibs could beat Hearts and Rangers in their opening five games and lose the rest, or they could win all of them, or none, or post five consecutive draws.

However, with the Easter Road side looking to better last term’s disappointing bottom-six finish, a keen eye will be cast down the fixture list to identify favourable runs of games.

Under Jack Ross, Hibs approached games in a compartmentalised fashion, combining European and cup games with league fixtures. During Shaun Maloney’s tenure it was very much centred on not looking further than the next match.

It remains to be seen how Lee Johnson approaches matches but September’s games – Kilmarnock and Aberdeen at home with a trip to Dundee United in between – could be worse. October is the only five-game month in terms of league fixtures and Hibs have trips to Ross County and Celtic, and three home games against Motherwell, St Johnstone, and St Mirren. You would imagine Hibs would be targeting a decent haul of points from that run.

The annual ‘thanks a bunch, SPFL’ moment

Not only do Hibs face a midweek trip to Ross County in February, the Staggies also face a midweek trip to Edinburgh in early November. Rangers fans have also been hitting out at their own trip to Dingwall on Christmas Eve. It wouldn’t be a Scottish Premiership fixture list without gripes involving County.

Other dates

The Premier Sports Cup group stage takes place from July 9-20, with the second round being played on the midweek of August 30/31, the quarter-finals on the midweek of October 18-20, the semi-finals on the weekend of January 14/15 2023 and the final on Sunday February 26.

The Scottish Cup dates are yet to be finalised but Hibs’ involvement will likely start in January.