Hibs verdict: Experience helps Hibs nick win as Shaun Maloney is proven right - sort of
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Four league wins in 15 under Shaun Maloney consigned Hibs to the bottom six, rather than fighting for a European berth.
At a sun-drenched SMiSA Stadium on Saturday, Ewan Henderson’s first goal for the club, combined with Paul McGinn clearing off the line and Scott Tanser thumping the crossbar, secured Hibs three points. It wasn’t pretty; heck, it wasn’t even effective at times – James Scott’s header from Joe Newell’s cross midway through the second half was the visitors’ first effort on target – but in the end, it was a case of job done.
McGinn was impressive at the back on his first league appearance since early February. In the first half he cleared off the line with Curtis Main lurking; in the second period it was his long ball up to Harry Clarke that led to the winner. The versatile defender doesn’t often get the credit he deserves from some sections of the support but he played a significant role in the result.
There was a reason Maloney suggested his squad’s relative youth wasn’t conducive to consistency or positive results prior to his departure. With McGinn joined by the likes of Christian Doidge, Paul Hanlon, Matt Macey, and Joe Newell on the sidelines for significant spells, there wasn’t a lot of experience on the pitch at times when it was sorely needed.
Lewis Stevenson rightly kept his starting place against St Mirren after a strong showing in midfield against Hearts in the Scottish Cup semi-final. There is an argument that he should have played more under Maloney.
It was likely no coincidence Hibs scraped an important win with Hanlon, Macey, McGinn, Newell, and Stevenson on the pitch. Experience isn’t the answer to all Hibs’ problems but it certainly helps.
Newell’s comments after the game summed up where Hibs find themselves at this moment in time.
“We knew if we stood up to the challenge and competed then we had a bit of quality that could nick us the win and in the second half we got Hendo’s goal. It was a great finish and we showed the fight and the heart to see it out.
Had Hibs been able to ‘nick a win’ a bit more often they might find themselves in the top six. Injuries, suspensions, managerial upheaval, experienced players being unavailable, and the sale of Martin Boyle has left Hibs limping over the finish line.
Newell predicts change this summer – ‘Logically, you would say there has to be because the season hasn’t been good enough’ – apart from a new manager taking the reins. The board wants better, the fans expect better, the players know performances have to be better.
You suspect no one at Easter Road would complain if the season ended with four more scrambled 1-0 wins. Newell admits it’s “crap” having nothing to play for at the end of the season, saying: “It’s not just down to the last few games, it’s the whole season. We just haven’t been good enough.”
With a new manager on the horizon and a predicted summer of change, though, the players do have something to play for in the final four games: their futures.