Hibs draw another blank as Elias Melkersen offers glimpse of hope in final third

Hibs were held to another goalless draw as St Johnstone frustrated Shaun Maloney’s side in front of a 19,000+ crowd at Easter Road.

Saturday, 5th March 2022, 6:10 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2022, 8:25 pm
Elias Melkersen added a spark in the final third
Elias Melkersen added a spark in the final third

The hosts looked lively at times but despite efforts from Chris Cadden, Christian Doidge, Sylvester Jasper, and Elias Melkersen they were unable to breach Zander Clark’s goal. The visitors struggled too, with no shots on target and only a handful of speculative efforts.

It is perhaps significant that the last time St Johnstone came to Easter Road, it needed a Martin Boyle penalty to win the game for Hibs. Last time out at McDiarmid Park it was Kevin Nisbet and Jamie Murphy who got the goals in a 2-1 win.

What Hibs would have given for that sort of influence or good fortune in front of goal on a sunny afternoon in Leith – especially on a day when Boyle was on target for new side Al-Faisaly.

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It is now three months since a striker scored a league goal for Hibs at Easter Road, Nisbet converting Josh Campbell’s cross in a 1-1 draw with Motherwell on December 4.

On a very related note, rarely has there been a roar like the one that greeted the introduction of Melkersen at Easter Road – certainly not in recent months. The Norwegian forward, who made his debut towards the end of the midweek goalless draw at Dundee, was afforded more time against St Johnstone and showed glimpses of why the Capital club forked out in excess of £300,000.

The 19-year-old has no shortage of confidence and offers a spark in the final third where one has been lacking since the departure of Boyle, although Jasper is another who is doing his best to get bums off seats.

With Kevin Nisbet facing a significant amount of time on the sidelines, Hibs fans may well see more of Melkersen in the coming weeks. His first attempt on goal was an effort from 20 yards that needed a Saints defender to deflect it over the bar.

He’s not afraid to fling himself into challenges or have a stern word with an opponent. If Hibs can collectively show the fight that he displayed during his substitute appearance then wins rather than draws may be more forthcoming in the near future.

Hibs have been somewhat stale in attack in recent weeks – consecutive blanks and a lack of goals from strikers has contributed to a feeling of treading water in games. After a start-of-year wobble the defence has tightened up; no mean feat given the ever-changing combinations in a back three, four, or five.

The next step for Hibs surely has to be doing likewise in the forward areas and for that to happen they need the likes of Doidge, Melkersen, and Jasper to turn their good moments into goals.

Another clean sheet is admirable but a third consecutive goalless draw, even allowing for all those unavailable and the relative youth of the team, is a concern.

Next weekend sees Hibs travel to North Lanarkshire to take on Motherwell in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals. They need to find that missing ingredient in the final third, because is not simply a case of trying to replicate the way they played with Boyle in the team.

That, more than injuries, is perhaps the biggest challenge facing Maloney.

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