Hibs have meanest defence in British football – bar Spurs

David Gray, pictured taking on Lewis Morgan of St Mirren, is not afraid to do his bit charging forward to set up chances
David Gray, pictured taking on Lewis Morgan of St Mirren, is not afraid to do his bit charging forward to set up chances
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Defenders rarely get the credit they deserve, strikers usually hogging the headlines with the goals they score.

So it was little surprise to find Hibs skipper David Gray a little taken aback to learn the club has the second meanest back-line in British football.

Gray met Paralympic swimming silver medallist Scott Quin when he took the Scottish Cup to his former''school Roslin Primary as part of the 'Persevered' Tour

Gray met Paralympic swimming silver medallist Scott Quin when he took the Scottish Cup to his former''school Roslin Primary as part of the 'Persevered' Tour

Just six goals have been conceded in 11 Championship matches, the best in Scotland and beaten only by the five lost by Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premiership – with Spurs having played one game fewer.

If unaware of that record, Gray was, nevertheless, delighted to hear of it, proof that he and his fellow defenders are more than playing their part in the team’s bid for promotion at the third time of asking, the weekend shut-out against St Mirren being their sixth of the season.

“As defenders we pride ourselves on clean sheets, so it has been good,” he said. “We’ve lost a few goals from set-pieces which we want to tighten up on, but overall we have been solid.

“If we can provide a solid base we have so many creative players going forward and we’ll give ourselves a good chance.

“If we can get the creative players on the ball and keep taking chances then hopefully we’ll keep winning games.

“In the past we created a lot but maybe didn’t take them. But now we are converting them and that has been the difference really.”

After a blip in which Neil Lennon’s players took just three points from four matches, Hibs have responded with back-to-back wins over Dunfermline and Saints – both achieved without top scorer Jason Cummings who has found himself sitting on the bench, “a jag” according to the manager for the 21-year-old striker who he reckons has been a little off colour in recent weeks.

Lennon’s decision may have surprised a few but Gray insist it merely underlines the strength in depth within the squad with Martin Boyle stepping in at the weekend to claim the first goal in what was a man-of-the-match performance.

He said: “I’m sure if you ask Jason he’ll say he’s disappointed not to be playing, but he knows he’s got to keep working hard.

“It’s about being ready when you get back in – which I’m sure he will be – and taking the chance.

“Are we surprised he’s not playing? I don’t know because the manager knows what Martin, Brian Graham and everyone else can do.

“There is a great strength in depth throughout our squad so the manager has loads of options. It’s good for him to be making those decisions.

“We have strength all over the pitch and that’s a good thing because everyone knows you have to do well to keep your place.

“Martin came in and did well which was good to see and he will be hoping he’s done enough to maintain his place for the weekend.”

Saturday’s trip to Somerset Park presents Gray and his team-mates with the chance to gain revenge on Ayr United, the only side to have beaten them in the Championship, the Ayrshire side coming from behind to win 2-1 in Edinburgh after Marvin Bartley was sent off although his red card was later rescinded.

Gray said: “We want to put things right after that result. We were very disappointed with that but we knew it would be a hard game. It’s a tough place to go, we know having been down there pre-season, and we’ll be expecting another hard game.”

Despite their mini-slump, Hibs sit three points clear at the top of the table although those who were predicting they’d have the title wrapped up by Christmas after they’d won their opening five league games have quietly disappeared.

Gray, however, was adamant none of Lennon’s players had taken such a view of things saying: “Things are hotting up in the league but I think we are looking good.

“We had a sticky spell when we didn’t win a few games, but we’ve put that right. Dundee United are looking good so we have to keep playing the way we are.

“Ideally we’ll stretch the lead but we know how tough this league is. We’ve been in the Championship for two seasons so we know what it’s like.

“When teams come to Easter Road they raise their game to play Hibs. I think Dundee United maybe found that out at the start and it takes time, especially when you have a new manager and new players like they have.

“So we didn’t read anything into their start to the season, we always knew a challenge would come from them. But it’s not just United, it’s Falkirk, Queen of the South and Raith Rovers as well.

“There are lots of teams who can take points off each other in this league so it’s about getting consistency.

“The league looks like it might go to the wire but from our point of view we’re at the top just now and we just have to focus on staying there.”

Lennon insisted his players would find it easier to do that if the home crowd would pump up the volume but, claimed Gray, he’s been too focused on playing to take any notice of what may, or may not, be going on in the stands.

Speaking as he took the Scottish Cup to his old school, Roslin Primary, as part of the “Persevered Tour,” the 28-year-old said: “From a player’s point of view I enjoy playing at Easter Road. The fans have been great with us and long may that continue.”