Hibs’ Paul Hanlon: Strikers have difficult job – we all need to step up
Paul Hanlon has admitted Hibs cannot keep banking on a repeat of the stunning form shown in the second half of last season to dig them out of a run of just two wins in 14 matches.
Having taken the race for second place to the penultimate match then, the Capital club now find themselves in eighth position in the Ladbrokes Premiership, seven points adrift of a place in the top six.
Neil Lennon was left to again bemoan his side’s lack of a killer instinct following their latest setback, a 1-0 defeat by Motherwell at Fir Park on Wednesday, in what has become a recurring theme for a number of weeks now. Lennon has revealed he senses his players cannot score at the moment and Hanlon has the exact same feeling with Hibs having managed just two goals in their past five league games.
“When the final whistle went, I felt we could still be playing now and I don’t think we would have scored,” he admitted a good half-hour after the game had finished.
The defender, however, was quick to speak up on behalf of his team’s faltering frontline, insisting: “It’s easy to say lack of quality up front, but they have a really difficult job.
“I’m at the back for a reason, I don’t have the quality these guys have. It’s a difficult job they have, but at the end of the day at a club like Hibs you are expected to perform and produce.
“We all need to step up in terms of goalscoring and creating, to just be a little bit more clinical and have that desire in front of goal to even put yourself in a position to miss. We aren’t even doing that, the ball is flashing across and we just need to put ourselves on the line a bit.”
Agreeing it had become a recurring theme, Hanlon continued: “We’ve spoken numerous times about it. Even last season there were times we were dominating games and there were too many draws.
“It’s a hard one, striker is the hardest position on the pitch, no doubt about it. Scoring is the hardest thing to do so I’m not going to sit here and criticise them. But all over the pitch, wide players, midfielders - Stevie Mallan has chipped in with quite a few - but we all need to be chipping in more to help the strikers.”
Throughout the warm weather training camp in Dubai the Hibs players had talked of the need for a “big second half” to the season, but while there are still 16 matches remaining, Hanlon admitted he and his team-mates need to rediscover that winning habit soon.
Pointing out that new signings Ryan Gauld and Stephane Omeonga - along with any further new arrivals before transfer deadline day - won’t have the luxury of “bedding in”, he said: “We did a lot of hard work over the break and we were hoping to see the benefits of that but while we played well enough to beat Elgin at the weekend, Motherwell was obviously a massive step up and we came a bit short.
“It was very disappointing, we were really sloppy first half, didn’t get going at all and then that sucker punch [David Turnbull’s goal] put us on the back foot. If you go in 0-0 at half-time you get a chance to accept you are not playing well and to regroup.
“But they scored and we gave ourselves an uphill battle especially because it is a difficult place.
“You know you are not going to be given goals. Second half I thought we worked hard, created enough chances to get a draw but we probably didn’t have that bit of quality. We just did not really have any conviction in front of goal.”
Many will now see Sunday’s trip to Paisley to face a St Mirren side now propping up the Premiership as an ideal opportunity to grasp that elusive win but with Hibs’ league position becoming a concern.
“Yes, it definitely is,” said Hanlon. “We cannot keep saying we had a good second half to last season and we just need to do that again, it’s not like that. You need to go out on a Saturday, or whatever night of the week you are playing, and actually do it. Just because we did it last year doesn’t mean we are going to do it this time. Instead of talking about it, we need to do it.”
Asked if he felt Hibs were under-achieving Hanlon, who has taken the captain’s armband as club skipper David Gray continues to sit on the bench, said: “If you look at the league table and compare it to last year then we are.
There are still plenty of games to go so we’ll probably decide that at the end of the season.
“But we need to start winning games now. The second half of the season does seem to fly by so we need to get wins, starting on Sunday. But every game is difficult.
“We have had tough tests against most teams, that’s probably why we are in the position we are in. We are not in a position where we can take anything for granted.”