Hibs have found the right balance – just when it matters most

Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom has his team well-drilled and able to adapt when he makes tactical changes mid-game
Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom has his team well-drilled and able to adapt when he makes tactical changes mid-game
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Hibs have enjoyed an unbelievable run since Paul Heckingbottom arrived, culminating in a first derby win at Tynecastle in six years.

That made it 20 points out of a possible 24, a top-six finish already secured before the trip to Gorgie and, with that victory over Hearts, there’s still the chance off clinching a place in the Europa League.

I’ll admit that’s something of a long shot given Kilmarnock and Aberdeen are six points ahead with only five matches remaining, but it’s a scenario no-one would have thought was remotely possible only a few weeks ago.

For men, the key to recent results has been the consistency of selection Heckingbottom has enjoyed. I’m sure if you look at the stats, the majority of the players involved in those eight games will have played every minute of every match.

Consistency of selection, something we didn’t have for long spells with all the injuries we’ve had to contend with – Gray, McGregor and Hanlon for example all out for lengthy periods – is always more likely to bring results and that’s exactly how it is working out now.

There’s now a balance to the team which is important. We look organised and every player appears to know exactly what is required of him even when the boss is changing things about during the match as Heckingbottom did at Tynecastle. I know myself how difficult it is to win a derby match, particularly on the other side of the city, but to do so you have to take your chances which we did.

However, the platform for that win was down to the back four, what a big difference it makes to having those four experienced guys, David Gray, Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson, in the side.

Much had been made of the threat Uche Ikpeazu would pose given his power and strength – he’s someone who can be unplayable when he gets going – but McGregor and Hanlon handled him superbly.

Even when Hearts threw on more strikers in a bid to take something from the match we looked as if we could cope with whatever was thrown at us. Opposition teams are finding it very difficult to score goals against us and that gives the players in front of them the security to go and cause them problems.

In front of the back four, the midfield looks strong, Daryl Horgan – his two well taken goals apart – has been playing well while I like the look of Stephane Omeonga for the verve and energy he brings in that area.

Mark Milligan may not catch the eye in the same way, but he goes about his business quietly and effectively in the middle of the park while Stevie Mallan is always a threat as he showed with that free-kick which was superbly saved by Bobby Zlamal. Marc McNulty obviously doesn’t have the same sort of physical presence as Ikpeazu, but his movement causes defenders lots of problems. He had the chance to put kill the game late on but we saw the quality he brings, having found himself out wide left, in using the outside of his right boot to set up Horgan for the equalising goal.

Scoring when he did was important with Hibs a goal down. It took us a wee while to grow into the game but I always felt that as long as we could handle Hearts’ physicality, we had the quality within the team to come through.

Coming from behind to win at Tynecastle showed the character which has been on display over the past couple of months while the results has obviously sent confidence soaring. We also seem to have a bit more nous, or whatever you want to call it, about us and the players are delivering when it matters.

Every one of them appears to be right in form at just the right time.

I’ve been banging on for weeks about this being the time of the season when you have to produce, so it’s great testament to the players that they have turned things around so spectacularly.