Kevin Nisbet verdict as former Hibs boss rates striker's performance at Ibrox after 10 months out
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The 25-year-old, returning to competitive action for the first time since sustaining an ACL injury in February, scored in an impressive first half performance and lasted 80 minutes before he was taken off in the 3-2 defeat by Rangers in Glasgow.
Collins didn’t expect to Nisbet to last as long but was impressed not only by his fitness but his workrate and hold-up play. Both are aspects of his game Collins has previously been critical of.
Speaking on BBC Sportsound, he said: “Kevin Nisbet had an excellent performance, considering it was his first game for a long time. He scored a goal and that will give him huge confidence. At the top of the pitch, you know if you get in around the opposition box, he’s a finisher. He’s proved that. What he had to add to his game was being more mobile, more generous to his teammates, pressing and working. He’s added that to his game tonight. What I saw was a young man who was hungry with the ball and without the ball, so it is a huge bonus having him back.
“It’s such an important part of any team to have a striker at the top of the pitch who can win flick-ons, lean into centre-halves, hold it in, let the midfielders get close to him, lay it off and then get back in the box. I don’t think Hibs have had that quality all season. So he is back and I have to say I thought he looked fit. He was moving really well and lasted 80 minutes. I didn’t think they would get 80 minutes out of him. That’s a big positive.”
Nisbet has now scored on his last three visits to Ibrox and he told BBC Sportsound: “It’s great. I've been out for a long time. I had an inkling that I would come in and score. I just need to see how I react, but I'll maybe not play full games for a few months."
Collins, meanwhile, doesn’t just have high hopes for Nisbet. He was also encouraged to see Aiden McGeady come off the bench for his first league appearance for the club. The veteran winger signed in the summer from Sunderland has missed most of the season through injury. “He’s a player I have always liked,” added Collins, the former Hibs and Scotland midfielder. “He’s 35. The Hibs fans haven’t seen him, but can they get him on the pitch in the final third? I think he’ll still have the skills, maybe not the pace that he used to have. But I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
As for the performance overall, Collins believes Hibs lost their way in the second half. “The first half was very good,” he added. “On the other hand, the second half was very poor. The players were giving the ball away too easily. There was a gap between the strikers and the midfield. They were giving the ball away constantly in the second half. When you do that at Ibrox you are always going to be under pressure.”