Hibs boss: Basic errors are costing us dearly

Ian McShane puts QOS into the lead. Matty Kennedy, below, passes up a chance for Hibs. Pictures: John Devlin
Ian McShane puts QOS into the lead. Matty Kennedy, below, passes up a chance for Hibs. Pictures: John Devlin
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Ifs buts and maybes count for nothing at the end of a game, but they do form the staple diet for that after-match debate.

And although we’re barely into the season there’s been plenty for Hibs fans to go on.

What if Danny Handling hadn’t been sent off in the opening game, the Petrofac Training Cup clash with Rangers having equalised only a few minutes earlier?

What if Liam Craig had tucked away that penalty against Hearts?

What if Alan Stubbs side had taken advantage of even one of the numerous chances created when they faced Falkirk?

Might they have won against Alloa if top scorer Farid El Alagui hadn’t ruptured his Achilles tendon?

All now only subjects for conjecture but, Stubbs would insist, indicative of the fine line which exists between victory and defeat.

Unsurprising, then, that as Hibs suffered a fourth setback in just six matches, the Easter Road head coach was left to muse on just how this match might have turned out had Matty Kennedy tucked away a golden opportunity to open the scoring after just six minutes.

The on-loan Everton winger did well to out-muscle Queen of the South defender Andy Dowie to get on the end of Jake Sinclair’s pass but could do nothing more than rattle a weak shot off the legs of goalkeeper Zander Clark.

“That’s what I am talking about,” admitted Stubbs, “Instead of 1-0 up we are 1-0 down and the opposition have something to hold onto and when you have something to hold onto it’s a lot easier to defend, to get back in numbers.

“If we are 1-0 up they have to come at us and then we are going to pick holes and exploit areas because they are more vulnerable. But having something to hold onto gives you confidence.”

The “something” to which Stubbs was referring was the Doonhamers’ first half goal, Ian McShane dispossessing Scott Robertson before feeding team-mate Gary Reilly and heading for the six-yard box to meet the return pass and complete the simple task of sliding the ball past the helpless Mark Oxley.

Again, though, it was a careless, sloppy goal from Hibs’ point-of-view, Robertson totally unaware of McShane steaming in from behind him as he stood 30 yards out facing his own goal waiting to collect Paul Hanlon’s pass.

Time and again Stubbs and his players have talked of the need to cut out such gifts, but despite the hard work we are assured is being put in at East Mains to eradicate such errors, they continue to blight Hibs play and until they are banished getting those wins which will start to haul the club in an upward trajectory will prove difficult to find.

The need to do so is glaring when you take into consideration that all eight of Hibs matches so far have been settled by a single goal. It’s not rocket science to work out just what eliminating basic errors might add to the team.

Stubbs admitted as much, saying: “It doesn’t help when you are conceding goals that you should not be conceding. That’s it in a nutshell. We cannot afford to be giving teams soft goals.

“In football, no matter what level you play, you cannot legislate for anything like that. You can work all week on the training ground at certain things but come a match day we just cannot contemplate things like that happening.

“It’s silly little mistakes at this moment in time and the team is getting punished for them. It’s small margins of error which have cost us too many times.

“Football can be very rewarding and it can be very harsh. At the moment it’s harsh on us and we are not necessarily getting out of games what we should be – but it is up to us to put it right.”

Hibs have proved against Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath that they do have it within them to recover from such generosity, but not on this occasion as they struggled to put any sustained pressure on the home defence.

Yes, there was plenty of possession, loads of neat passing but, ultimately, it led nowhere, the Capital club lacking any penetration either on the flanks or through the middle where Dominique Malonga, following his promising cameo against Cowdenbeath, struggled to make any impact other than a woefully wayward free-kick which struck the roof of the stand behind Clark’s goal and brought howls of derision from the Queens’ supporters.

Jason Cummings, who replaced the equally ineffectual Sinclair, did add a bit of a spark, one low shot creeping beyond the far post, another crashing off the legs of Dowie with the defender knowing little about it and, finally, a third effort which almost managed to squeeze between the legs of Clark.

Even throwing Oxley forward in a desperate last-minute gamble to cash in on a free-kick paid no dividends, the goalkeeper, who had scored that freak winner against Livingston, unable to make his presence as an extra attacker count.

Defeat, though, wasn’t down to the shortcomings of any individual, it was the team collectively which failed to operate as a unit, the defence, midfield and frontmen appearing as separate entities rather than a cohesive inter-linking operation.

And, on those rare occasions when Hibs did work themselves into decent areas, the final delivery wasn’t up to scratch.

Stubbs said: “When you are full of confidence you don’t think twice. When your confidence isn’t at the level you want you take an extra touch and then you do not see the pass, that’s the difference.”

And while Stubbs can bemoan the lack of reward to which he has felt his team has been entitled in previous matches, he could have little complaint this time as Queens, under caretaker boss James Fowler, ensured their narrow lead would be enough to take the points.

He admitted as much, saying: “The players need to step up and realise that teams are going to get in two banks of four or a four and a five, get ten men behind the ball and that puts the onus on us with that little bit of quality which we would think we have overall to these teams to make those opportunities.

“I felt overall we did not do enough in all areas all over the pitch. But we need to stick together, we need a bit of character to play ourselves through.”