Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom hails players after improvised switch changed game against Rangers

Paul Heckingbottom has saluted the unsung heroes behind Hibs’ fightback to claim a third successive draw with Rangers – his defenders.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 5:30 am
Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom had to think on his feet to change the game against Rangers
Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom had to think on his feet to change the game against Rangers

The Easter Road boss admitted his side were left hanging on at times as the Ibrox club, who took a first-half lead through Daniel Candeias, threatened to take the game away from Hibs.

But while a second-half performance in which birthday boy Flo Kamberi equalised with his 13th goal of the season and Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was forced into a string of important saves thrilled the fans, Heckingbottom hailed those who had made it possible.

“As much as it was a great ball from Marc McNulty and a good finish from Flo,” said the head coach, “It was a top drawer performance defensively and people need to appreciate that as well.

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“There were great blocks from the likes of Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon and Mark Milligan while Ofir Marciano made two good saves.

“The players covered for each other, sometimes that’s what you have to rely on but it was an absolute credit to them and shows the hard work they have been putting in.”

A tactical switch by Heckingbottom at half-time brought Hibs very much back into the game, Stephane Omeonga taking up a more central role in midfield where Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara had been dictating play while Kamberi was pulled wider on the left to help combat the forward runs of Rangers skipper James Tavernier.

He said: “As well as we defended, we wanted to get pressure on the ball higher up the pitch, to get bodies higher up the pitch. It was important we did that.”

It was a formation Heckingbottom admitted his players hadn’t worked on – but he was delighted with how they did exactly what was wanted.

He said: “It’s always pleasing when it comes off but credit to the players. We hadn’t worked on that shape but the boys put in a real shift. We had a chat at half-time about the tactical switch, what it would look like. They had to arrest the momentum of the game and they’ve done it, it was such a committed display. We had the better chances second half, Ofir didn’t have a save to make because the defending was still top-drawer.”