Lee Johnson teases new Hibs strike partnership as he explains why run of defeats doesn't concern him too much
Lee Johnson is adamant that he has seen nothing in the first round of league fixtures to suggest Hibs can’t be successful this season, despite losing their last three games.
Speaking after Friday night’s defeat by St Johnstone that bumped the Easter Road side from third in the table the 41-year-old stated that his team are still building momentum. He pointed to the strength of the overall performances in two of the last three games as proof.
"I've got to have belief,” he said. “There were a lot of strong performances out there on the pitch and we're now 12 games in, we've played everybody once and St Johnstone twice, we've had a look at it, I've had a look at it, and there's nothing that suggests to me we can't be successful this season.
"I think we showed that. We've been building momentum, barring last week against Celtic, throughout the season so far. Away at Dundee United and now St Johnstone have been losses, but with strong performances for two-thirds of the game. We've just got to complete a 96 minutes of a very strong performance and a game like that ends up 4-0."
Kevin Nisbet is expected to be available after the break for the 2022 World Cup and while Johnson accepts the Scotland internationalist could provide competition for Mykola Kukharevych, who opened his account for the club against St Johnstone, the Hibs boss hinted that he could parter up the two forwards to be ‘really attacking’.
He said: “I'm not a manager who will always play one up front; I'm happy to drop that spare man wherever we think it's required. Against St Johnstone the formation was naturally stretched, and obviously on the other side we have Jair Tavares, and Aiden McGeady to come back. We've got the option to go super-attacking and at times I'm sure we'll use that."
Meanwhile, defender Marijan Čabraja insisted no one was blaming Kyle Magennis for the collapse on the pitch. His red card for two bookable offences against the McDiarmid Park side came shortly before Hibs gave up the equaliser and then conceded a second goal. It was the midfielder’s first start for Hibs nearly 400 days after his last – coincidentally, also against St Johnstone at Easter Road – but the Croatian defender backed his team-mate.
"This is football. There was no blaming him, he knows what he did. He just wanted to do the best for the team. It's our first red card of the season and I hope it’s the last one,” he said.
"We controlled the game and we were dangerous, aggressive, had that attacking mentality. The problem was conceding the goal right after the sending-off. We wanted to win the game but couldn’t attack the same. It was really difficult. The positive for us is that we were aggressive in the first half and very attacking until the red card.
"We should have scored earlier, but if we hadn’t received the red card, it was just a matter of time when we would score a second. We spoke in the dressing room; we felt if that corner didn't happen so early [after the sending off] and we defended that corner, then probably we would have kept the clean sheet.”