Hibs are only going to get better, says Lee Johnson, as he reveals summer transfer window hope
The visitors had 16 goal attempts compared to the Dons’ eight, hit the woodwork several times, and Kevin Nisbet saw a 79th-minute penalty saved by Kelle Roos with neither side able to draw blood in the fight for third place.
“I thought it was an outstanding match; I was super proud of the boys on a tactical level,” Johnson said. “Aberdeen are a good side on a great run and I honestly thought it was total domination. I didn't think we produced enough quality in the final third, certainly in the first half – but if that was a boxing match it would have been stopped, wouldn't it?
"We should have been out of sight and obviously the key match moment didn't go our way. I'm process-driven, I believe in the numbers game. I think we're really starting to show signs of maturity as a team. We're only going to get better, there's no doubt about that. With the summer window coming we want to try to retain a couple of the good loans so we'll do our best with that, but I saw so much against Aberdeen that made me proud and made me positive about the future.”
The Hibs boss also refused to point the finger at Nisbet for the missed penalty, adding: “I said to him, 'listen, I wish I'd had the bravery as a player to take those penalties'. It takes a brave man to take that penalty. He's got a lot of belief in himself and he'll make sure he scores the next one.”
Johnson also had praise for full-backs Lewis Stevenson and CJ Egan-Riley – and admitted he feared losing Josh Campbell to a red card following a sickening collision with Liam Scales.
"I was really pleased. CJ is a strong young player, I thought Stevenson was outstanding physically, technically, and tactically in the first half and we had to be a bit narrow at times but that enabled us to dominate the way we did. I was a bit worried Josh Campbell might have got sent off because it was high, but he was facing the wrong way so I understand why he wasn't.”
The Dons remain six points ahead of Hibs with nine to play for, but Johnson isn’t ready to give up the race for third.
“I still believe we can do it. The realist is telling me it’s over, but if we play like that consistently for three, five, ten, 20 games, that's exactly what I'm after. The success should come to us in that sense. The Hearts score wasn't a bad result for us, we'll deal with that later, but we're focused on us.
“If we don't make third, it won't be this run or this moment that's cost us, it will be earlier in the season. We're building nicely and I think our fans have got to look positively towards next season, and how powerful we can be in this division. The boys have played well individually and as a team, and that's all you can ask for going into three massive games.”