If it ain’t broke don’t fix it - talking points from Hibs collapse v County

Jordan White scores the County equaliser Jordan White scores the County equaliser
Jordan White scores the County equaliser
Being booed off by Easter Road crowd a new experience for gaffer Monty

Eight games and a little over seven weeks into the gig, Nick Montgomery can now feel as if he’s genuinely arrived as Hibs boss. Experiencing one of the great Easter Road traditions on Tuesday night was the clincher.

Booed off at the end of a frustrating and fractious 2-2 draw with Ross County, this was really the first time Monty had been on the receiving end of serious stick from the home crowd.

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Why the strong reaction? And what lessons can the head coach take from seeing his team throw away a two-goal lead in such chaotic circumstances?

Let’s look at the major talking points from a game that could and should have been out of sight before the hour mark:

The gamble that almost paid off

Having relied heavily on the same tried-and-trusted performers to play almost every minute of every game since his arrival, Monty took a chance in resting key men like Joe Newell, Martin Boyle, Jordan Obita and – especially – David Marshall for the visit of County.

With 54 minutes gone, and with goals from Elie Youan and Jair Tavares in the bag, it looked as if he’d pulled it off.

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Hibs were cruising towards three points, important squad players like Lewis Stevenson and Dylan Levitt had been given a good chunk of playing time in a competitive game – and the guys given the night off would be fresh for Saturday’s Viaplay Cup semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Jojo’s no-no broke the game wide open

The one selection decision that definitely didn’t pan out as planned was sticking Jojo Wollacott in goals. His mistake for the first County goal changed everything.

In the circumstances, Montgomery showed admirable restraint when asked about his decision to start Wollacott ahead of Marshall, the gaffer saying: “David Marshall came off against Hearts and I didn’t want to push him and risk him, so I felt the right decision was to give him a rest.

“Davie will be back and ready for the game on Saturday.”

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it …

Ah, the substitutions. We have to talk about the substitutions. Did the removal of Rocky Bushiri and Jimmy Jeggo, in particular, contribute to the collapse that allowed County to claim a point from the game?

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There wasn’t really much Allan Delferriere could have done about his own goal. Maybe Bushiri heads the ball away, though. The big centre-half was playing well enough to think that he might also have prevented Jordan White from turning to score a second for the visitors.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

There are no mugs in the Scottish Premiership

With the exception of a St Johnstone side currently in freefall, every single team in Scotland’s top flight boasts a handful of really dangerous players, smart coaching teams capable of adapting to changes – and sufficient strength in depth to pull a few masterstrokes when required.

County boss Malky Mackay’s use of his subs, among them goal scorer White, provided more evidence of this.

Hibs have talent to spare

Jair Tavares was outstanding on the night. Dylan Levitt took his chance to impress in central midfield. Bushiri had one of his best games, before making way with 64 minutes gone.

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If it’s going to take time for every single player to get up to speed with exactly what Montgomery wants, there is potential for him to do something exciting with this group.

Saturday’s semi-final is now a huge potential turning point

Without a win in five games, Hibs remain stranded in the bottom half of the Premiership table, caught in the doldrums of draws and dropped points.

Their Hampden showdown with an erratic Aberdeen side now takes on enormous significance.

Having a cup final to look forward to would make a massive difference to the mood music around East Mains and, more pertinently given the chorus of displeasure heard last night, Easter Road.

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