Hibs verdict: International break coming at the right time to allow team to regroup

Perhaps the last thing the Hibs players want after a demoralising defeat is a break until April 2 but it might turn out to do the squad a world of good, with two crucial games on the horizon.
Dejection for Elias Melkersen and Chris MuellerDejection for Elias Melkersen and Chris Mueller
Dejection for Elias Melkersen and Chris Mueller

After weeks of lady luck deserting Hibs, she appeared to have made the trip to the north-east when Chris Cadden’s cross was finished off by Aberdeen defender Calvin Ramsay past his own goalkeeper to give the visitors a 20th-minute lead.

But she either stopped smiling, or left the ground early, as that was about as good as it got for a Hibs side that hasn’t had a great time of it at Pittodrie in recent years.

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Two penalties – one controversial – and a red card that Hibs will appeal, and a killer third with ten minutes to play made it a grim afternoon in the Granite City and Marc McNulty’s late winner for Dundee United, who are next up at Easter Road after the international break, pushed the Terrors into fourth place at the expense of Hibs.

Given the bonkers nature of the middle positions in the Scottish Premiership, with teams jostling for positions like punters on a night out trying to attract the attention of the bartender, anything less than a win could leave Hibs needing three points at Tynecastle in the final game before the split to achieve fourth or, whisper it, top six and although they’ve enjoyed a marginally better record across Edinburgh than they have against Aberdeen, it’s the sort of nightmare scenario that players and manager will want to avoid.

It seems cliched to refer to the games against United and Hearts as cup finals but that’s how Hibs may have to treat them.

At the time of writing we don’t know if Hibs will have Ryan Porteous available for selection. The club are set to appeal his red card against Aberdeen, and Shaun Maloney issued a staunch defence of the 22-year-old after the match.

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"The referee got the decision wrong so I don't think that should be any reflection on what we think about the player.

"He's been really good and for me, one of the best defenders in the league.

"It was a penalty but he tried to clear the ball; he got the player but it wasn't a red.”

One saving grace is that Maloney will have Rocky Bushiri and Paul Hanlon available for selection so if the appeal is unsuccessful he at least has natural central defenders at his disposal rather than shoehorning Chris Cadden into his back three.

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The international break may have come at an opportune time for the Capital club: a chance to regroup, and for those players who have played perhaps more minutes than expected due to the injury crisis, a rest.

There will always be a feeling that the players will want to go out as soon as possible to bounce back from a bad result but this time the gap may be a blessing.

The coaching staff will have their fingers crossed that none of their international players – Josh Campbell, Josh Doig, Sylvester Jasper, and Elias Melkersen – suffer injuries and that those staying at home can take advantage of the downtime to come back all guns blazing for that huge, huge Dundee United clash.

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