Kevin Nisbet's ominous warning after Hibs derby winner, and why there's almost certainly more to come
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His ten goals in 13 games since returning from a lengthy injury lay-off have almost been overlooked in the sense that more emphasis has been placed on Hibs’ streaky form, the loss of key players to injury, and a few VAR controversies thrown in for good measure. The eleventh-hour breakdown of a move to Millwall during the January transfer window might have disrupted some players, so too the late interest from Wigan Athletic but the Scotland striker, who was perhaps unlucky to miss out on the squad for the previous internationals, appears unfazed by anything.
The video clips posted by Nisbet and Hibs as he worked his way back from a complex knee injury sustained in February last year showed a player determined to hit the ground running on his return after ten months out, which he has done in some style – even shrugging off a minor hamstring injury.
“It was probably a blessing in disguise,” he says, speaking about his injury lay-off. “Before I wasn't as strong, as big, as powerful, or as quick. I think that nine months I absolutely battered the gym and it's probably stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.”
Certainly the way he bounced Kye Rowles off him in the lead-up to one first-half chance, and the ease with which he shrugged off the Australian defender’s attentions during another effort in the second period back up those gym claims.
Hibs have not given up on securing third place, although the players and the manager appear to have accepted that the stars need to align in spectacular fashion for that to happen. But you wouldn’t bet against the unthinkable happening, certainly not in Scottish football and certainly not during this season of seemingly unlimited surprises. “We would love to finish third but it's about getting top six secured, dusting ourselves down after the split and finishing as high as possible,” he said. “We lost four games before the derby, but the win brings that connection back between us and the fans. We know they will come out in their numbers again at St Johnstone.”
Nisbet could leave in the summer following the January interest and the fact Hibs will want to avoid another Ryan Porteous situation but with six games remaining he has ample time to add to his tally, help Hibs qualify for Europe and finish as high up the table as possible, and force his way back into the national squad ahead of June’s European qualifying double-header so that if he does move on, he can leave having done everything in his power to ensure a positive end to the campaign on a personal and team level. The message from manager Lee Johnson is straightforward enough – keep scoring. “I know I will score goals and I'm pleased I'm doing the other side of the game as well,” the striker adds, exuding more of that effortless confidence.
Only two teams have conceded more goals than St Johnstone so far this season and if Nisbet can pick up in Perth where he left off against Hearts, the Saints could be in for a torrid 90 minutes on Saturday.