It wasn’t pretty by any means, but Grant Holt has claimed the victory over Falkirk which sent Hibs back to the top of the Championship had the hallmark of champions.
The Easter Road side were facing a third damaging draw in succession, Jason Cummings having cancelled out Craig Sibbald’s strike just 90 seconds earlier for the Bairns, until on-loan Celtic star Kris Commons stepped up to thunder home an unstoppable free-kick with only three minutes of the game remaining.
Having relinquished their place at the top of the table after being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers seven days earlier, Neil Lennon’s players had even more reason to cheer when they later learned title rivals Dundee United had themselves been toppled from that position as they suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Dumbarton.
Now Hibs go into Friday night’s home clash with United a point ahead and, Holt insisted, he’d happily settle for another ugly win.
The veteran striker said: “There have been games we’ve played well and got nothing. Against Falkirk, we played poorly and got a win – so which one do you want?
“We played better against Raith and got a 1-1 draw. We weren’t happy with our performance at Falkirk, but that’s the mark of champions.
“We have a group of players who know what we want to do, by hook or by crook, no matter if it is ugly or fantastic, we will achieve what we want to do. At times, it’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be great but we have to get wins and get out of this division.
“Our fans probably went away disappointed in terms of our performance, but they’d be singing and dancing into the new year because we got the three points.
“All that mattered was the win, Had anyone said beforehand that we’d go there and come away with a 2-1 win, we’d have taken that.”
Teams playing against Hibs are often accused of raising their game against them and Holt revealed that’s a charge which holds true having spent some of his spare time taking in other Championship matches.
He said: “Teams raise their games unbelievably. I go to watch matches and I’ve seen teams we’ve played against and they were a million miles off where they were against us. That’s what we have to get over.
“Teams will try to frustrate and make it difficult for us but we have to keep answering the questions.”
Holt also believes the desire of Lennon’s players will play a crucial part in the coming months, adamant that he and his team-mates weren’t prepared to simply settle for a point at the weekend.
“He said: “It’s never easy going to Falkirk. They were right up for it and it was difficult in the wind.
“We had our chances, they defended pretty well, their goalkeeper and the back four put their bodies on the line.
“But we’d never settle for a point. I think we were in the ascendancy, in the second half they didn’t really hurt us, nor in the first half apart from the goal.
“We had a couple cleared off the line. We felt a second goal was coming but we just couldn’t get it – a bit like the previous week.”
Commons’ first goal of his 28-day emergency loan couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for Hibs but Holt insisted: “We know what Kris has, that ability. He’s been out for a long time, he’s finding his feet and, as a team, we’ve had injuries. We’ve had to move the squad around and it’s been difficult to gel at times.
“But we do have good players. As a group, we have shown ability and desire. We want to win. We have a desire to keep playing, we keep going, working hard. We have a mentality that we do not stop, we keep going to the end. We got a draw against Raith which last season might have been a defeat and now a win over Falkirk which could have been a draw back then. But we won the game, we keep going, we know what we need to do and that is to keep winning football matches.”
Holt admitted he and his team-mates go into Friday’s match against United still smarting from the defeat they suffered at Tannadice barely a month ago, Tony Andreu netting from the spot after Martin Boyle’s missed penalty probably cost Hibs a win on the night.
Holt said: “We’ll be looking to perform this time because we feel we didn’t do ourselves any credit although we should probably still have won.”
Holt revealed he’s been a touch surprised as to how virtually all the focus has been on Hibs this season with United allowed to fly under the radar until recently.
He said: “I find it a bit strange. No-one’s really been talking about United but they are the team that’s just come down from the Premiership.
“But we just care about ourselves, what we do as a team and not what their results are. We only worry about ourselves and that’s what we will do on Friday. We want to go out and entertain our fans.”