Hibs gaining ground in pursuit of Rangers result - but will they get it today?

Hibs CB Will Fish could have a busy afternoon at Ibrox.Hibs CB Will Fish could have a busy afternoon at Ibrox.
Hibs CB Will Fish could have a busy afternoon at Ibrox. | SNS Group
Gaffer demands bravery on the ball as he looks to break Ibrox duck

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery believes his team are steadily closing the gap on Rangers. And he says the right sort of courage – the bravery needed to stick to a strong game plan – can make the difference at Ibrox today.

Rangers have won all three head-to-head contests so far this season, dishing out a 4-0 hammering at Ibrox and running out 3-0 winners against a severely understrength Hibs XI at Easter Road in the league, then edging this month’s controversial Scottish Cup quarter-final over their nine-man hosts in Edinburgh. Montgomery insists there have been signs of improvement over the course of those games.

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“You probably could say that if you look back on the three performances,” he said, adding: “What we need to do is make sure we’re disciplined. They’re a very good team. But we can compete with everybody in the league, I think we’ve shown that.

“At times, the result probably hasn’t reflected the performance but, ultimately, you can’t concede goals and you have to punish at the other end, which is something we’ve been a little bit sloppy with in big games because we’ve created good chances against the top teams. Those are the opportunities that have gone begging, and if you make one mistake at the back you’re going to get punished because you’re playing against high quality players.”

Asked how he would interpret the usual demands that Hibs be “brave” at Ibrox, Montgomery said: “It means not changing the way we play. We may adapt a little it in terms of formation, but we have players who are comfortable on the ball.

“Being brave is not being naïve and wanting the ball. You have to want the ball, because if you give quality opposition possession for large periods, they’ve got more chance to hurt you.

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“It’s us doing what we do every week, trying to play the way that we play. You have to adapt to the opposition, as well. Being brave at the back is sometimes sticking your face in front of a shot, out wide blocking a cross. That’s bravery, as well, but it’s also something that should be a fundamental of football.”

Hibs ran Rangers closest in their Cup clash, with the game finely balanced at 1-0 before a mad three minutes saw both Jordan Obita and Nathan Moriah-Welsh red carded. With Martin Boyle already in hospital after a horrific head knock with John Souttar, the hosts eventually lost 2-0.

Taking heart from what he’s seen in the games so far, Montgomery actually pointed to the 3-0 home loss – when left back Obita filled in at centre half, Kanayo Megwa played at right back and Myziane Maolida started despite being miles short of match fitness – as encouraging, saying: “We had a very mixed squad and players coming back from loans. And even on that night we created problems for them.

“But what we didn’t do was keep the ball out of the net. And when you don’t do that it’s difficult to win a game against a team like that.

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“But in the cup, we played some good football, in that second half we had a lot of momentum. And when we were on top, we needed to score. We didn’t and the game fell away from us.

“We go into this game and it’s a level playing field. They have gone three weeks without a game since Benfica and we have gone two weeks with the international break.

“We’ve worked hard in the last couple of weeks to keep momentum going and freshen up a couple of boys who needed that. We go into every game confident we can get a result. But we also know we have a difficult task in front of us.”

Any kind of result today would keep Hibs firmly in the hunt for a top-six finish. On top of adding to their points tally, it would boost confidence – already fairly high after a six-game unbeaten run in the league – heading into the final two fixtures before the split.

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“Look, it’s nine points to play for,” said Monty.”The run that we’re on is only going to build confidence. Going to Ibrox, these are the games you want to play in.

“You want to go there, it’s a fantastic atmosphere but it’s going to be hostile. These are the games you want to play and manage in.

“Of course, to get a result at a difficult place is something to take confidence from. We’ll go there and take confidence from giving a good account of ourselves and putting in a good performance. The result is never guaranteed but as long we turn up and show the same application we’ve been showing over the last six or seven games, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to get something.”