Three things we learned from Kilmarnock 1-0 Hibs
Here are three Hibs-related observations from the defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Lack of spark
On a day when Hibs’ defensive players helped keep the scoreline respectable against a Kilmarnock side who controlled most of the game, the lack of spark in the attacking department of Paul Heckingbottom’s team was evident once more. Aside from strikes from Stephane Omeonga and Thomas Agyepong in each half which forced saves from Daniel Bachmann, Hibs never looked like scoring at Rugby Park. They have now netted only three times in their last six matches, all of them scored or assisted by Daryl Horgan in derby matches. With Horgan starting on the bench, no Hibs attacker looked like getting the better of Kilmarnock’s defence. The main source of solace for Heckingbottom and the Hibs support in this regard is that Scott Allan and Martin Boyle (both proven big-hitters in green shirts) should add significant edge to the attack in time for the start of next season.
Given the previous observation, it wasn’t a great shock that Hibs’ three main attacking players, Stephane Omeonga, Marc McNulty and Florian Kamberi, were all taken off in a radical 65th-minute triple substitution by Heckingbottom. Perhaps the greater surprise was that, in introducing three other attacking players from the bench, Ryan Gauld - ominously, with regard to any possible chance of remaining at Hibs beyond the expiry of his loan at the end of the season - was not added to the fray and remained an unused sub. After being taken off at Ibrox in his first start for three months last weekend, it looks increasingly likely that the much-hyped January signing, who has been available for selection for the past month following his injury lay-off, will be heading back to Sporting Lisbon with only a bright Scottish Cup debut against Elgin City to show for his time in Edinburgh.
Paul Heckingbottom deserves credit for calling a spade a spade after this uninspiring display at Rugby Park. Having ultimately lost the game only to a penalty that should never have been awarded, he could easily have put the focus on the referee in order to disguise Hibs’ shortcomings. Instead he held his hands up and admitted that his team had been “rubbish” and had allowed a typical end-of-season, nothing-to-play-for mentality to undermine them. Such forthright observations, as long as they are not hanging individuals out to dry with unnecessary personal criticism, will always go down better with supporters than an effort to sugar-coat a poor performance like this one.