Hibs boss in 'dark arts' plea after Rangers defeat as he urges players to be more streetwise

Lee Johnson believes his Hibs players have to be better at the ‘dark arts’, as he appealed for his team to have greater confidence following the 3-1 defeat by Rangers.
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James Tavernier scored the opener from a free kick after 32 minutes, with Ianis Hagi adding a second on 55 minutes. Todd Cantwell made it three with four minutes remaining before Paul Hanlon headed in a consolation goal three minutes into injury time.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland after the defeat Johnson said: “The dirty winner in me wants to do more than we did. I'd have pulled Cantwell's headband straight off the back of his head [for the free kick for Tavernier’s goal], but I'm not a player anymore!

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"I want us to commit and be good at the dark arts, and have quality play. We do show that. But this team has got to get better and get more confident and slick, and it will. But the frustration for me is that I want it yesterday.

CJ Egan-Riley is penalised for fouling Todd Cantwell in the lead-up to Rangers' opening goal in their 3-1 victory over HibsCJ Egan-Riley is penalised for fouling Todd Cantwell in the lead-up to Rangers' opening goal in their 3-1 victory over Hibs
CJ Egan-Riley is penalised for fouling Todd Cantwell in the lead-up to Rangers' opening goal in their 3-1 victory over Hibs

"We didn’t think it was a foul [for the opening goal]. It’s a very soft one – CJ Egan-Riley put himself between Cantwell and the ball and that was good defending. But the referee wanted to give those all day and was very quick to blow the whistle for that one.”

Hibs went close through Josh Campbell four minutes before the interval, the midfielder stretching to reach Kevin Nisbet’s low cross, but he couldn’t divert it on target from a couple of yards out. In the second half Nisbet hit the woodwork with a header and Robby McCrorie pulled off a fine one-handed save from a curling Harry McKirdy effort – but Johnson wants to see more quality from his players at both ends of the pitch.

“If that chance had gone in, it would have given us something to hold onto. Look at St Mirren’s performance against Celtic – they had something to hold onto. You have to be clinical in both boxes,” he continued.

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“The half-time team talk was that we were still in it. We had a couple of chances and the second goal killed us a little bit, psychologically. It dampened the crowd and nobody really believed we could get back into it. That’s the bit we need to change because one goal can make a big difference to a team’s mindset.

"Rangers had more technical quality than us and it gave them the chance to overload the centre of the pitch but when we won it, we had really good opportunities to go and be dangerous, and occasionally we were dangerous. We had decent chances. If you put together a set of highlights for Hibs, you’d see decent chances but in the context of the game, Rangers had a bit more control than we’d like.”

Hibs host Celtic on Wednesday before travelling to Hearts on the final day of the season with Johnson keen to see a strong ending to the season.

"We've got to rest and recover first and foremost because what's for sure is that we have to approach these games with energy. It's an important time for us over the next four days and it needs to be a club performance as well as individuals and I include the fans in that,” he added.

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