Hibs get the win but little satisfaction - talking points as Monty's men smash Saints

O captain, my captain! Stand-in skipper Joe Newell is the first to congratulate Paul Hanlon on his goal. O captain, my captain! Stand-in skipper Joe Newell is the first to congratulate Paul Hanlon on his goal.
O captain, my captain! Stand-in skipper Joe Newell is the first to congratulate Paul Hanlon on his goal. | SNS Group
In the bottom six, no-one can hear you scream ...

When there’s nothing tangible to play for, satisfaction must be sought in the less obvious rewards of following football. It isn’t easy. As Hibs fans can testify.

Caught between a need to believe that everything might, perhaps, eventually be all right, and the cold stark reality of following a team consigned to the bottom six of a far-from-vintage Scottish Premiership, the small knot of traveling supporters who ventured to Perth yesterday at least showed some appreciation for the performance put in by Nick Montgomery’s men. In a season of few high points, a 3-1 scudding of St Johnstone counts as a good day out.

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But, of course, the uncertainty surrounding Hibs at the moment makes it difficult for anyone to take maximum enjoyment from even a truly convincing win over Craig Levein’s team. With Monty’s own position still up in the air and a massive summer overhaul of the squad being planned, any optimism in the ranks is necessarily vague.

Two of the scorers from yesterday’s game, Emi Marcondes and Paul Hanlon, are unlikely to be back next season. Myziane Maolida, whose loan move from Hertha Berlin has delivered Hibs a genuinely exciting talent, will have options all over Europe to explore.

Punters should enjoy these guys while they can, then. And try to avoid fretting too much about what happens next, as we examine the key Talking Points from yesterday’s victory:

Woulda, coulda, shoulda …

Never mind the obvious gags about this Hibs performance arriving a day late and a dollar short. Wishing they’d been good enough to beat St Johnstone at Easter Road a few weeks back, when a victory would have put them into the top six, doesn’t help anyone.

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But it is valid to wonder what might have been, over the closing stretch of pre-split fixtures, had Montgomery been able to call upon Dylan Vente, who missed seven weeks with an ankle injury. The Dutchman took five minutes to get on the score sheet after coming on as a substitute yesterday. His ability in front of goal may well have made all the difference, in games where missed chances left Hibs vulnerable to late sucker punches.

Emi has all the gifts

Marcondes is probably too good to be playing for Hibs. Well, this current Hibs team, anyway. His opening goal yesterday, a 30-yard free-kick that curled up and over the wall to leave even the brilliant Dimitar Mitov grasping at a vapour trail as the ball hit the top corner, summed up his quality.

The on-loan Bournemouth playmaker’s work rate and intelligence were much in evidence against St Johnstone. Any kind of deal that brought Marcondes back for the new season would be a statement of intent. The kind of thing that might just appeal to a new billionaire investor with ambitions to transform Hibs into the undisputed third force in Scottish football …

Two for the road

On the subject of recruitment, if Hibs can find a way to make the finances work, they could do a lot worse than signing Mitov AND Dan Phillips from St Johnstone. Even considering the risks associated with signing players from the ‘wrong’ end of the table, no small concern for a club with ambitions to compete much higher up the food chain, both goalkeeper Mitov and midfielder Phillips are stand-outs in Perth. Oddities, even.

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True, Mitov would have to work on his distribution skills to fit into Montgomery’s blueprint. But it can’t be that hard to coach a professional footballer, even a goalie, to feel a little more comfortable with the ball at his feet. And his ability to keep said ball out of the net is outstanding.

Phillips, meanwhile, has the energy, drive and anticipation to become a truly exceptional safety net in centre mid. The guy who uses the ball well enough to get by – and whose defensive nous lets everyone around him take risks.

Captain fantastic stole the show

You have to love Paul Hanlon, the Hibs captain who has been sidelined for much of this season. The sheer joy among his fellow players when the skipper scored to make it 2-0 said everything about the esteem in which he is held by his peers.

Montgomery said: “Paul’s a fantastic player, a great servant for the club. He’s been here a long time and probably hasn’t played as many games as possible (this season), but he went through a period where he was sick. There were five or six weeks where he had a bug and it’s been frustrating for him. I’m really happy for him to score today; the boys have a great deal of respect for him.”