Three Hibs-related observations as Paul Heckingbottom's men took two points from their opening Betfred Cup Group D fixture.
Hibs need to be more astute in the final third
Hibs are creating chances in front of goal, make no mistake about it. Paul Heckingbottom’s men netted nine goals in their three pre-season fixtures let’s not forget. They found themselves in the ascendency at Forthbank, as you would expect, against League Two Stirling Albion but were left to rue their profligacy as the Binos fought back to earn a point in their opening Group D clash.
Striker Christian Doidge and winger Joe Newall both missed gilt-edged headers at a time when the hosts had offered very little. The Premiership club never looked in danger of losing the tie but could – and should – have ventured back down the M9 with maximum points.
Expectations are high
There was another big backing for Heckingbottom’s side at Forthbank with a sea of green populating the terrace behind the goal, not to mention a packed out all-seated East Stand. More than 2,000 took in the match at Dunfermline last weekend with a little short of 1,100 then crossing the border to see Hibs triumph 4-3 at Carlisle – on a Tuesday night.
There was already an air of expectation among fans prior to last week’s announcement regarding new ownership, but the arrival of US businessman Ron Gordon has taken it up a notch.
Season ticket sales have surpassed 12,000 with the club expecting that figure to rise before the Premiership campaign kicks off next month. If the players can get things right on the park, most Hibs supporters will want a piece of the pie.
Pre-season is about putting the hard graft in for what is a long season ahead. Heckingbottom is big on fitness and hasn’t been shy in expressing that to his dressing room. Even the players who weren’t included in the match day squad for the trip to Stirling Albion were left behind at the training ground.
For the ones that did don the first-team jerseys, they do appear to be in fantastic physical condition. Heckingbottom himself commented just a fortnight ago that Steven Whittaker, despite turning 35 last month, is in the shape of his life. Fitness can often be a telling factor as the season wears on and that might just stand this current Hibs team in good stead.