Hibs 3-1 Motherwell final word: Talk of crisis long forgotten as Hibees shine at home
Crisis, what crisis? Suddenly a run of eight games without a win, a record stretching back to the opening day of the season and one which saw Hibs skirting with the foot of the Premiership table, is long gone.
Now, with back-to-back wins against St Johnstone and Motherwell, the talk is optimistic, all about seven matches unbeaten with the Easter Road outfit back in the top six.
The dark clouds which had been gathering under Paul Heckingbottom have begun to clear, the victory at McDiarmid Park as Eddie May, Grant Murray and Steven Whittaker took temporary charge of a side on the slide followed up by another three points as new head coach Jack Ross took the helm.
“It does help to get off to a good start,” admitted Ross after watching Hibs come from behind to defeat the Steelmen, strikers Christian Doidge and Florian Kamberi both getting on the scoresheet as they cancelled out Liam Polworth’s opener before Daryl Horgan’s late goal clinched the win.
But as happy as he was, Ross insisted this was only a start, the target now being to build on these confidence boosting wins, admitting that while he was “excited” at the threat his players carry going forward, there were things that could have been done better when Motherwell put them under pressure in the second half.
Conceding Hibs probably got a break when referee John Beaton turned blind eye to Ryan Porteous’ clumsy challenge on Polworth which could easily have earned the Fir Park outfit the chance to level from the penalty spot, Ross agreed Horgan’s strike was a big moment in the match.
Given Hibs propensity for losing late goals this season it was a welcome relief although it was noticeable that a crowd which often became anxious and nervy in the closing stages of matches previously appeared to sense the players needed that extra bit of backing and gave that to them.
Unsurprisingly, Ross opted to start the same players who had produced that 4-1 win in Perth, pairing Kamberi and Doidge up-front with the creativity of Scott Allan deployed behind them, the midfielder clearly enjoying the freedom to roam that role offers.
He said: “The quality Scott gives you is difficult to get in your squad so we have to try to harness that and us it properly and I think he will enjoy the environment we will create as well.”
And Ross believes Kamberi and Doidge will prove to a fruitful combination long-term, the pair having claimed five goals between them in the last two games.
“I think the two of them are a handful together,” he said. “They have different attributes. A lot of what Christian does help Flo in the game. The two of them individually performed well and as a pair performed well and obviously both scored.”
Doidge’s problems since arriving from Forest Green Rovers have been well documented but, insisted Ross, he hasn’t seen a player struggling to cope. He said: “Christian has impressed me, his maturity, how much he is enjoying being at the club.
“I have not sensed any regret from him in any way. He believes in himself and I think he believes he has shown enough. He will do well this season.”
As Ross said, it’s a case of him getting to know his players, the nine games he has before the winter break and the opening of the January transfer window giving him an extended period to assess his squad before deciding how much, if any, tinkering he then has to do.
But, even in these early days, he insisted he’s happy with what he has seen, saying: “We have some good players here, I have not come into a squad or group that does not have ability – they have lots of that.”
Ross will be aware, of course, that as he eyes his new players they’ll be making their own judgments on him, but Swiss hitman Kamberi believes there should be no worries on that score.
Although the likes of Stevie Mallan, Darren McGregor and Jason Naismith know him well from their days together at St Mirren, Kamberi revealed he’s also had his own previous insight into how the new head coach intends to work.
He said: “I knew the manager from last summer because he tried to sign me for Sunderland. I met with him and had a chat about that, but it was never that close.
Sunderland is a big club but at that moment I felt like I wanted to be with Hibs playing in the top league in Scotland.
“I wanted to meet him to see what he is like as a person and I liked him. When I saw that he was appointed as the new manager here I was very happy because he is a good person.
“The whole team is happy because he knows what he’s doing, he prepared us very well for the Motherwell game. I think everyone can look forward now.”