Lee Johnson dedicates emphatic Hibs win at Livingston to Ron Gordon - 'An emotional day'
Both teams paid tribute to the executive chairman and owner of the Easter Road side, who passed away last month at the age of 68, by wearing special t-shirts during the warm-up while Hibs wore their all-black change kit with a commemorative message on the chest, the number 68 on their shorts in tribute, and black armbands. A minute’s silence held before kick-off was impeccably observed by all.
“It was an emotional day and I’m just delighted that we got the performance and result for Ron and the family,” Johnson said afterwards. “It was an occasion we can celebrate as a club and it was a fantastic performance from the players but also from the fans. I really enjoyed the togetherness and the camaraderie that was shown from the first minute all the way through to the celebrations at the end.”
Things could scarcely have started worse for Hibs, Joel Nouble sashaying through the defence with worrying ease before rifling a shot in off the underside of the crossbar to give the hosts a ninth-minute lead. But the visitors fought back and two goals in ten minutes from Élie Youan turned the game on its head before Jack Fitzwater’s red card and Stéphane Oméonga’s own goal put Hibs in the driving seat and substitute Mykola Kukharevych put the gloss on the scoreline in injury time.
"We have talked a lot about the surface but Livingston are a very good side and very difficult to play against,” Johnson continued. “Earlier on this season we came here and fell short on battling qualities but you can see the additions we have made that allows our performances to be a bit sturdier, a bit stronger, and for us to build and show our quality.”
Part of that sturdiness and strength came from Will Fish and Paul Hanlon, who continued their impressive partnership at the heart of defence, but Johnson insisted it was a team effort – and that defending starts from the front.
"We talk about the defence but you need to have that threat to ease the pressure on the defenders. Earlier on in the season we didn't quite have enough of that but the improvement in players like Élie Youan as an example, and the recruits we've brought in and that bedding in in terms of how we want to play means we carry a threat in any game we play now – although wouldn’t it have been nice to have Martin Boyle and Aiden McGeady fit for the season?
"I've been very impressed by [Fish and Hanlon] but they've had to defend less because the forwards are pressing well. CJ Egan-Riley and Jimmy Jeggo are marshalling the midfield well, and then there's Josh Campbell's energy,” he added.
"It's always the one brain of the team and I'm a massive believer in the sum of the parts being greater than any individual. It just feels nice for people to start seeing the real Hibs and every win, every result that comes our way justifies it a little bit more.