Is Kevin Nisbet facing a 'Christian Doidge moment' as Hibs striker looks to rediscover scoring touch?

No Hibs fan will need reminding of where, when, and indeed how, Christian Doidge got off the mark for Hibs. A treble against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park a little over two years ago sparked the Welsh striker into life and he hasn’t looked back since.

By Patrick McPartlin
Saturday, 27th November 2021, 6:00 am
Kevin Nisbet hasn't scored since October 3 - but is the Hibs striker getting closer to ending his barren spell?
Kevin Nisbet hasn't scored since October 3 - but is the Hibs striker getting closer to ending his barren spell?

As things stand he has 33 goals and ten assists in green and white. It could well be more had he not contracted Covid-19 followed by a nasty Achilles injury.

Kevin Nisbet didn’t have the same issues at the start of his Easter Road career. An assist on his competitive debut was followed up with a hat-trick against Livingston in West Lothian. However, with Doidge sidelined for most of the season so far there has been more pressure on the Scotland internationalist in front of goal.

Last season Martin Boyle, Doidge, and Nisbet did the bulk of the damage for Jack Ross’ side and good fortune meant that if one of them was out of form, the other two were still firing on all cylinders.

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Nisbet has missed Christian Doidge's presence up front - but could the Scotland striker follow in the Welshman's footsteps and kickstart his tally in Perth?

Doidge and Nisbet dovetailed perfectly. The former Dunfermline Athletic hitman hasn’t looked the same without Doidge alongside him and has managed just two league goals during the Welshman’s absence this term.

It hasn’t been for the want of trying. Nisbet hit the post in the 3-0 defeat by Dundee United that started this wretched run of results, and he set up Boyle for his second against Rangers in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final.

Against Ross County he had two big chances in either half but couldn’t find the net.

While all strikers will experience barren spells it would likely be of more concern to the coaching staff and fans if he wasn’t getting on the end of these chances at all.

Nisbet and Martin Boyle have scored 18 of Hibs' 30 goals in all competitions this season

On another day in Dingwall he might have had two in the first period. Perhaps all that’s needed is a bit of luck; the rub of the green if you like.

Anyone else fancy chipping in?

Hibs have scored 30 goals in all competitions so far this season. Boyle has netted 14 of them, Nisbet four, Kyle Magennis four and Christian Doidge two while Ryan Porteous, Paul McGinn, Joe Newell, Scott Allan, Jamie Murphy, and Daniel MacKay have added one each.

However, the last time Hibs had a goalscorer whose surname wasn't Boyle or Nisbet was on September 23 when Allan and Newell found the net in the Premier Sports Cup quarter-final against Dundee United at Tannadice. The last league goal scored by someone other than the two forwards was McGinn’s strike against former club St Mirren in a 2-2 draw five days earlier.

Speaking after the Ross County defeat, captain Paul Hanlon – who hit the post with a first-half effort in Dingwall – suggested that the other players in the team had a duty to help out in front of goal.

You may have seen the picture doing the rounds on social media illustrating Hibs’ results with and without Magennis in the team. In the early part of the season the midfielder was in fine form and his late runs into the box brought him several goals and chances; something Hibs had missed last season.

With the former St Mirren man injured Hibs now lack a player who can steam into the penalty area and get on the end of cut-backs, loose balls, and deflections. Newell, who scored his first goal of the season in the 3-1 Premier Sports Cup semi-final victory over Dundee United at Tannadice, has previously conceded that he needs to add more goals to his game.

End of the drought?

Nisbet seems to be getting closer to ending his barren run. Had he twitched his head one way or the other in Dingwall, he might have already ended it. Perhaps he’s trying too hard to find the net when what he really needs is for the ball to go in off his shoulder or his shin – that slice of luck again.

But just as McDiarmid Park was the venue for another Hibs striker’s redemption, might it be again?

Not to jinx matters (which is the last thing Hibs or Nisbet needs) but St Johnstone are not the team they were last season. They will likely be missing a handful of key players.

Hibs have also already beaten them this season at Easter Road – yes, Boyle was the marksman from the penalty spot in a 1-0 defeat but he can’t be relied on this time around – and they will feel they can do so again.

Matt Macey, who performed so well against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup final last term including saving a penalty, kept a clean sheet in the first meeting this season and the goalkeeper insists that things have changed.

"I think there would have been more of a sense of revenge when we played them at Easter Road earlier in the season,” he said as he previewed the Scottish Premiership clash.

"The emotions and the feelings from last season were still very much there and there was an awareness about that in the team.

"I think now it's its own game, there's no feeling of having to put anything right. Last season was a long time ago now.

“It's more about our situation right now rather than anything to do with St Johnstone.”

Similar could be said of Nisbet. While the striker will be desperate to get back on the scoresheet for personal reasons, as all forwards would, the importance to the team of his goals can not be understated.

Nisbet would probably insist, at least publicly, that a positive result for Hibs is the main thing and a goal to his name would be a bonus. Privately, he might feel differently.

Regardless, with Hibs at the start of this hectic festive fixture list, a reinvigorated Nisbet could be the perfect early Christmas present.

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