Lacklustre Hibs are punished in disasterous showing at Dens Park
They reckon that the Easter Road outfit are always last in line when it comes to the “experts” naming the teams who could challenge the champions come the end of the campaign.
And they’re probably right.
Despite coming through the first quarter of the season still pressing Celtic at the top of the table, it’s the likes of Aberdeen or Dundee United who the critics say are expected to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
But perhaps results like thisdefeat at Dens Park on Saturday are the perfect example of exactly why Hibs have their doubters.
Pat Fenlon has brought a level of consistency back to the club for the first time in a number of seasons, but they will have to work hard on convincing everyone outside the camp that their challenge isn’t about to come to a shuddering halt.
Goals from Kyle Benedictus, Steven Milne and former Hibs boy Kevin McBride from the penalty spot meant that the game was all but over with little more than 50 minutes gone.
Although Leigh Griffiths bagged a late goal – his 13th of the season – defender Alan Maybury admitted that it’s results like the defeat at Dens Park that give their critics new ammunition, but he’s determined that this defeat won’t be the beginning of a slump for his side while acknowledging that is exactly what rival supporters will be saying.
He said: “Of course there will be people who say that our bubble has burst, but we don’t believe so.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game and the manager pointed out that the standards set by us this season weren’t met on Saturday.
“We got what we deserved and the challenge now is to put in a good performance next week.Nine times out of ten you’ll get the result to go with it.
“You can’t promise results every week. We’ve been on a good run and maybe some of the teams we have played against will feel that we have nicked a result here and there that we haven’t deserved but, at the end of the day, we have got those results. We were below par on Saturday and the challenge now is to make sure that it is a one-off and that we get back to the standards that we have set ourselves.
“There will be plenty of people who say that is the end of it and blah, blah, blah, but we are determined to make sure that it is not. With Rangers being out of the league this season I think that everyone feels they have a chance this year to be up the top. It’s us at the moment and we want to stay there.”
Hibs had gone into the match as favourites against a side atthe bottom of the SPL butthey were a goal down inside 21 minutes when Benedictusgot on the end of a clearance from Lewis Stevenson and unleashed a fierce effort that left goalkeeper Ben Williams without a hope.
Those in the away stand would have expected their side to respond – and quickly – but it was an unusually lacklustre display from Hibs.
Their opponents seemed the hungrier and Rab Douglas in the Dundee goal didn’t have a single save to make in the opening 45 minutes, although both Eoin Doyle and Ryan McGivern had efforts which went just wide.
If the first half had been poor from Hibs, after the break it turned into a complete nightmare as they found themselves a further two goals behind within just seven minutes of the restart.
First, Dundee doubled their advantage when Matt Lockwood’s free-kick was knocked down by Declan Gallagher for Milne to hit home from close range, the former St Johnstone striker sending the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
Then Maybury was left fuming when Dundee’s Kevin McBride made sure of the points from the spot after Hibs’ Irishman was penalised for a challenge on Colin Nish inside the box.
The Hibs player felt that the award of a penalty was harsh, believing that there had been minimal contact with the former Easter Road striker. And headded: “I feel that it wasn’t one. He went down in front of me and I didn’t feel that there was enough contact, but the referee gave it so, at the end of the day, it’s a penalty and there is nothing that I can do about it now.”
Griffiths had carved out a few chances over the course of the game, only to find himself misfiring, but he did eventually hit the back of the net in the dying seconds of the game.
The Hibs strikerhit home an absolute beauty from distance, showing just why he was called into the Scotland squad to earn his first full cap in the friendly against Luxembourg last week.
Overall though, it was a 90 minutes that the Hibs players will want to forget, and Maybury revealed that their manager, Pat Fenlon, pictured, left them in no doubt as to what would be required for next weekend’s home league clash with Aberdeen.
Maybury continued: “The manager felt that we didn’t start the game properly and didn’t do a lot of the things that have got us to where we have been for the last few weeks.
“We were below par on Saturday and when that happens you have to make sure that you don’t get beat, that you hang on in the game, but we shot ourselves in the foot at the start of the second half.
“We were well beaten in the end and we have just got to accept it, get back into training and look to sort it out over the week.
“We have worked hard this season, there has been a big turnaround at the club and a lot of talk about Hibs doing well. Of course you hear it and people like it but you only get that if you do well out on the pitch.
“If you don’t do it out on the pitch then you don’t get the praise and you’ve got to take the criticism when it comes.
“The manager has been fair with us – he felt that we were well beaten. We’ve not had too many like this already this season and it’s about how we bounce back now.”
Dundee manager Barry Smith was delighted with the points, although he admitted that he has never seen Benedictus score a goal of the quality of their first at Dens Park.
He said: “It was a good performance and I think we deserved to win the game. All goals are good – it’s about taking them when they come along so we are happy that we got three. I’ve never even seen Kyle do that in training.
“The rest of the boys are saying it was a cross, but in fairness to Kyle, him and Declan [Gallagher] have done extremely well in the last few weeks.
“But it’s all about consistency and we have to produce the same next week.”