Hibs debrief: Lampard-style runs; Strength of Nisbet; Difference in quality; Jeggo mistake; Centre-back problem
A look back at the 3-0 defeat by Hearts at Easter Road. It was Hibs’ fourth loss in a row to their Edinburgh rivals in the Scottish Cup and puts more pressure on Lee Johnson after just three wins from last 14 matches.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Aiden McGeady played very well, but Josh Campbell gets the nod for some positive good forward runs and snapping into tackles over the pitch. There have been question marks over the midfielder’s quality, but never his commitment to the cause. His energy and aggression rubbed off on his teammates and his pressing prevented Robert Snodgrass from getting his foot on the ball and controlling the game. Lee Johnson said early in the season that he has been encouraging Campbell to watch how Frank Lampard used to arrive late in the box to score goals from midfield. Perhaps he was watching re-runs of the Chelsea legend as part of his prep. He was unlucky with the audacious Cruyff-style flick that hit the post and a header at the back stick which he was stretching for. Campbell has now played in six Edinburgh derbies without winning one, but he didn’t deserve to be on the losing team in this one.
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
Kevin Nisbet didn’t really get a chance to score, but turned in another very good performance. In the 15th minute he was out on the left touchline and, against the odds, outmuscled James Hill to win the ball and then earned a free-kick from Sibbick in the corner flag. Later in the first half he outmuscled Kye Rowles to tee up McGeady for a shot and later rolled Sibbick to win another foul on the edge of the box. Nisbet has clearly been working on his upper-body strength during his long absence. His hold-up play is better than ever.
Johnson’s tactics were good. It was noticeable early on that the Hibs defence and midfield were being encouraged to play the ball into channels early, often first-time, to turn the Hearts defence and use the space out wide, where there were no conventional full-backs wearing maroon. It worked pretty well, with Aiden McGeady and Elie Youan seeing plenty of the ball on the flanks and causing Hearts problems. Hibs also had an overload in central midfield and used that effectively too. This defeat wasn’t really about tactics. It was about fine details. Hearts defended their box well, Hibs didn’t. Hearts took their chances, Hibs didn’t. The harsh reality is that Hearts currently have better players.
BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT
If the manager could pick his team again, he would perhaps have left new signing James Jeggo on the bench. The 30-year-old Australian is someone the manager has known about and has tracked for some time. Johnson believes he will add “nous, energy and doggedness” to the middle of the pitch and is also a good talker, something he feels is needed. Of course, Joe Newell was suspended, Kyle Magennis was out with an injury and Jake Doyle-Hayes was also unavailable. There were not a lot of other options on a very weak bench. Jeggo has been playing regularly for Eupen in Belgium’s top league, but he had only trained with Hibs once coming into this game and struggled with the frenetic tempo of the derby.
Don Robertson had the cards out early in this one, but new boy James Jeggo couldn’t complain about his yellow card for bringing down Barrie McKay. The two yellow cards flashed to Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland for fairly innocuous comings together with Rocky Bushiri were very soft but ultimately made little difference. Bushiri’s yellow for brushing into Shankland was harsh too, and the referee should have booked Sibbick for a cynical foul on McGeady on the edge of the box. There were a couple of occasions where VAR checked incidents in the box but none of them led to a review from the match official.
Aberdeen visit Easter Road on league duty next Saturday, potentially without centre-backs Ryan Porteous and Rocky Bushiri. That position is now a really big problem. A win would move Hibs above the Dons into fifth place. Defeat doesn’t bear thinking about – for either team.