How Lewis Miller fared for Hibs against Celtic on first league start - defensive option, threat, frustration
There were a number of surprising elements to Hibs’ 3-1 defeat by Celtic in Glasgow on Saturday, from harsh red cards, to Hibs taking the lead, to VAR playing a hand in two goals, and Lee Johnson’s team selection.
The return of Jake Doyle-Hayes was not a particular surprise given Hibs have been light in midfield in recent weeks, although the use of Marijan Čabraja as a left-sided centre-back raised an eyebrow or two but it was Lewis Miller being handed his first league start in the cauldron of Celtic Park that caused the most ripples.
In his own words it has been a ‘tough season’ for the defender; battling consecutive injuries and the form of the reliable Chris Cadden. But he hopes his 78 minutes at Parkhead in which he coped well with Celtic’s Portuguese talent Jota, can give his manager food for thought.
“Mixed emotions. I thought we played quite well and it was unfortunate we didn’t get the result. It was a good performance at the end of the day. The gaffer gave me an opportunity to play and I just went out and gave it all I had. Hopefully, my performance showed him that he can trust me and that I can kick on from here. "
Miller’s height makes him a threat at set-pieces but it also makes him a useful target in attack. In one first-half move a Josh Campbell run down the left wing and a cute backheel to Lewis Stevenson allowed the veteran defender to whip a cross to the back post where the rangy Australian nodded down for CJ Egan-Riley, and the on-loan Burnley man wasn’t too far away with a driven effort that didn’t clear Joe Hart’s crossbar by much.
The manner of the defeat was frustrating but Miller is pragmatic: “Everyone gets emotional in the game, especially in a big game like that, first versus fourth. So obviously emotions were high. At the end of the day it is football. There are always going to be decisions that don’t go your way and some that do go your way.
“The scoreline is kind of rough because I thought we were better than that. When we went down to ten men all we wanted to do was try to hold them off. They were knocking on the door for as long as they could and eventually they got there with the set-piece. Hopefully we can go on to the next game, get three points and work our way to Europe. That’s still the aim. We’ll take it one game at a time and our focus is on getting three points against Motherwell.”
Miller’s baptism of fire, if you like, should stand him in good stead between now and the end of the season. His time in the Capital has been more transitional than either player or coaching staff would want but on Saturday’s showing he gives Johnson another option.
“In training we played 15 v ten to get into our heads to play more zonal and be aware of spacing instead of staying on the man. It worked on Saturday, you saw that on the pitch. If you watch the game, I think we played very well. It is a positive sign that we are going in the right direction.”