Three things we learned from Hibs 0-2 Celtic
Mark Atkinson takes a look at three Hibs-related points after the 2-0 defeat by Celtic in the Scottish Cup ...
Running their socks off
This match may not have been the most easy on the eye, but Hibs put a shift in. Head coach Paul Heckingbottom is big on work ethic and he acknowledged that his players gave him their all. Many men in green and white ran themselves into the ground. Their effort levels were to the maximum, from the strikers right back to the defenders. For 55 minutes, the match was even until Celtic eventually grabbed it by the neck. Ultimately, their quality shone through. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Hibs would run through a brick wall for their boss. Four games into his tenure and you can see his charges are right on board with him. For any new manager, that is a huge positive and will go a long way to securing a top-six berth, which is Hibs' sole focus now they are out of the cup.
Lack of creative options
As Celtic started to turn the screw when 1-0 up, a quick glance at the subs bench showed that Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom's hands are tied when it comes to changing the game. Injury has robbed him of arguably his most creative player in Ryan Gauld and his fastest in Martin Boyle. His 4-4-2 system had worked well to a point in that it made life tough for Celtic in terms of breaking them down, but once James Forrest broke the deadlock, it was hard to see how Hibs could change their system effectively. Stevie Mallan came on but failed to make any impact on proceedings, while Oli Shaw's appearance and a change to 4-3-3 made Hibs more exposed. Hibs have got some serious workhorses in midfield, but nobody to really add a bit of glitter to the game. Winger Daryl Horgan, perhaps their most creative player right now, is only lasting 70 minutes at a push. On the bench, Heckingbottom had Marvin Bartley and Gael Bigirimana alongside Mallan to come on and jazz up his midfield. Neither of them are likely to split a defence with a killer ball. Against weaker opposition - Hamilton, Dundee and St Johnstone - you can get away with it, but not against the best team in the land. Short-term, Heckingbottom will want Gauld back soon and, long-term, he will look forward to Scott Allan's arrival next season.
Pre-match, this game was dominated by the return of Neil Lennon to his old stomping ground. The ex-Hibs boss admitted he had some "trepidation" about going back to the Capital so soon after his mysterious and controversial departure. On his arrival, he had his hood up, keeping a low profile as the photographers snapped his every stride. Minutes later, he went on to the pitch for some quiet reflection before the supporters entered the stadium. After that, it was down to business. He almost blended into the background. Celtic fans belted out "there's only one Neil Lennon" and Hibs fans booed, but that was the end of it. In his post-match press conference, Lennon spoke of relief about his return going so well. He left with the spoils. We'll never know how much of an impact the quick appearance of Lennon impacted on Hibs in this match, but finally the spectre of Northern Irishman is put to bed.