Hamilton v Hibs final word: Same old sorry story for Hibees - and squad is left frustrated
Listening to Paul Heckingbottom bemoan his side’s latest failure to end an ever-lengthening winless run, it was tempting simply to dig out a previous match report, make a couple of wee tweaks and that would be it, job done.
For, as the Hibs head coach admitted, it’s starting to become difficult to find a new form of words to try to explain just why, having found themselves in the lead for the fifth time in seven matches, his players again couldn’t hold on for the win.
“Just replay the last, probably, three times I have sat in front of you, replay the same quotes, write the same things, same story,” sighed the Yorkshireman, apparently at a loss to put a new spin on how another decent performance hadn’t resulted in three points.
It is, however, Heckingbottom’s job to find the cure for his side’s shortcomings, the most obvious of which is a glaring inability to finish teams off when they are on top, a single goal, as midfielder Stevie Mallan admitted, always liable to leave the door open for the opposition.
At Aberdeen it was Sam Cosgrove, rising to nod home the Dons’ only chance in a game in which Hibs had scorned a handful. This time round, it was Mallan’s challenge on Blair Alston which gifted Hamilton a penalty to cancel out his superb opener.
“It’s not about holding the lead,” Mallan insisted. “It’s being clinical when we are on top, especially the first half we were on top for most of it, I would say.
“We had chances when we could have buried the game. We’ve not been doing it recently, it’s about being more clinical on top and we’re not doing it. We trained the past two weeks really well, all about finishing, taking our chances and the manager has been really happy and the boys have been happy.
“Everyone went out in high spirits and what we worked on just didn’t happen. The build-up play happened, but it was just putting the ball in the back of the net was lacking.
“It is frustrating. In the changing room the boys were deflated because 100 per cent we should have come off with the win. The chances we had, especially the first half, we had a few clear-cut chances and again in the second half, it’s a draw when we should have won.
“It should be turning for us. We played really well and we should have been in that changing room buzzing and looking forward to the next game, but it’s another goal, another draw.”
Should have, could have, might have, it’s rapidly becoming the story of Hibs’ season, Mallan conceding “you’ve hit the nail on the head” when it was put to him he and his team-mates are paying the price for their profligacy in front of goal.
He said: “It was the same story at Aberdeen when we had a few chances - everybody knows about that. We had a lot one-on-one with the goalkeeper and we didn’t take them. If we had, we win the game.
“Same on Saturday, balls flashed across the front, we should have taken them, we didn’t and it’s come back to bite us. It should be another three points, looking at the team above us and that’s one thing the manager emphasised before the game, get the three points no matter how and then push on to the next team. We had it in our hands and it’s us the players who cost us.”
Once more, though, Hibs discovered that when things aren’t going your way, they tend to go against you. Mallan contested referee John Beaton’s decision to award the penalty which was converted by Accies Ross Cunningham before bemoaning a late effort from Christian Doidge which the official chopped off.
“I had a bit afters with the referee after the game,” he revealed. “I felt it wasn’t but I haven’t seen it back. I didn’t think I touched him. It’s hard for a referee.
“I thought he got in front of me and went down. I am not going to say he dived because it’s a hard decision for the referee, a cluster of bodies. But not a penalty for me. Another day it might not have been.”
And, claimed Mallan, the same applied to the incident which denied Doidge a first Premiership goal. He said: “I think he (Beaton) gave it for a handball but his arms were at his side. I’m not sure if it hit his hand but the favour goes with the defending team sometimes.
“They hard decisions and can go for or against you. Today went against us but it’s our fault, not the referee’s.”
Hamilton (4-3-3): Fon Williams; Martin, Stubbs, Easton, McMann; Alson Gogic, Hughes; Smith (Cunningham 53), Ogkmpoe (Davies 76), Miller (Oakley 60). Substitutes not used: Southwood, MacKinnon, Moyo, Hamilton.
Hibs (4-1-4-1): Maxwell; James, Porteous, Hanlon, Stevenson; Hallberg; Horgan (Allan 72), Vela (Kamberi 88), Mallan, Newell (Murray 80); Doidge. Substitutes not used: Marciano, Jackson, Middleton, Naismith.
Referee: John Beaton.