Hibs' domestic woes continue as Livingston defeat leaves them pointless and bottom of the league
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More often than not it could be a reference to the emotions but you could apply it to the team’s performances as well or perhaps Jekyll and Hyde would be more appropriate. Even without the result against Aston Villa, Hibs needed a result against Livingston to get off the mark domestically.
Livi started the game more strongly and with just nine minutes on the clock, James Penrice evaded the challenge of Will Fish and swung in a cross that was diverted into the net by a combination of Scott Pittman and Jordan Obita. Hibs’ most promising effort of the first 45 came from Christian Doidge who headed just over from Allan Delferrière’s cross.
Midway through the half Livingston attempted to repeat their opener; this time Pittman caught David Marshall in the face and despite receiving treatment the veteran gloveman didn’t re-appear for the second half with Max Boruc taking his place.
Hibs hauled themselves back into the game when Riley Harbottle’s throw-in was nodded on by Doidge to Martin Boyle, who gave Ayo Obileye the slip and fired high past Shamal George. But Livingston responded by going up the other end and – surprise, surprise – a Penrice cross was headed home by Bruce Anderson and Mohammed Sangare made it 3-1 when he unleashed an unstoppable effort after Fish had misjudged Joel Nouble’s ball forward. Josh Campbell scrambled in late on to give Hibs faint hope, but there just wasn’t the feeling that they could complete the comeback.
It would have been a surprise if Johnson hadn’t made changes to his side after Wednesday night but swapping three defenders and dropping your marquee summer signing might have taken a few people by surprise but the manager hasn’t been shy in warning his players that sub-par performances will create an opportunity for others. Harbottle was given a chance after impressing against Raith Rovers – albeit at right-back rather than centre-back – and struggled at times, while Allan Delferrière started in midfield after some outings in defence and looked far more comfortable.
New defence, same old problems?
As mentioned, Johnson went with a new back four but the same problems that have plagued the Hibs defence since that first game in Andorra persist – namely, losing goals from crosses. Team-talks for visiting teams must be pretty straightforward – bomb down the wing, swing the ball over, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a goal. First Lucas Digne in midweek for Villa, then James Penrice for Livingston. But it’s not just crosses. Twice in the second half Fish was flummoxed by an aerial ball; once he was bailed out by Boruc, the other led to Sangare’s well-taken third.
After the second leg against Villa, Hibs travel to Aberdeen – never a particularly happy hunting ground even when things are going well for the Easter Road side. When the fixtures were announced, it looked like a relatively kind opening three games for Hibs. But five goals scored, eight conceded, and no points tells its own story.
And with Kilmarnock up next after the Dons, it’s hard to pinpoint where Hibs’ first points are coming from.