Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today revealed he’s expecting even more from top scorer Dominique Malonga as he comes back up to speed following his exploits in the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Easter Road striker managed only two appearances as a substitute as Congo reached the quarter-finals of the competition, his game time amounting to just 28 minutes.
While the 25-year-old himself has admitted he found the experience of sitting on the bench “horrible”, Stubbs believes the Paris-born star’s lack of action has left him off the pace despite watching him take his tally for the season to 13 with a double in the 3-0 win over Dumbarton.
Malonga returned to find himself suspended for the Scottish Cup victory over Arbroath but played for the Capital club for the first time since the derby on January 3 in their 2-0 win against Rangers last Friday. Stubbs felt Malonga’s limited game time was evident at Ibrox but detected signs of an improvement he expects to continue as Hibs retook second place in the Championship table with their comfortable win at the weekend. The head coach said: “I think Dom needed the game against Rangers. He hadn’t played for a month and, since he’s come back, I think he’s been off the tempo a little bit. He was better against Dumbarton but I still will expect more of him.
“Dom sometimes gives you the perception he isn’t really interested in the game, but that’s just his style.
“You can see when he comes off the pitch he is the slowest and it’s exactly the same walking in to training and walking out of training.
“But when you put a ball on the pitch he becomes alive. He has a football intelligence. He is very clever, picks up great positions, has a lovely first touch and an awareness about him.”
Malonga was teamed upfront with Franck Dja Djedje for the first time at the expense of teenager Jason Cummings, the January arrival opening the scoring with his first Championship goal and, again, Stubbs revealed he’ll be looking for more from him.
He said: “Strikers, at times, judge themselves on goals rather than performances but I thought Djedje was a threat. His work-rate for the team was very good and it will do him the world of good to have ninety minutes under his belt.”
Stubbs made three changes to the side which defeated Rangers – one forced on him as Scott Allan was ruled out with a chest infection – and the head coach accepted Cummings would have felt disappointed to be one left on the bench.
But he said: “I am here to make tough decisions – that’s why I am in the job. I’m not afraid to make them. I’ve said before I make them in the best interests of the football club.
“That’s more important than the individual.
“It’s about trying to manage the squad because we are going to be busy in the run-in. I want the players to be as fresh as possible and, when you have a good squad, you can give players a rest. It’s a nice position I am in now.”