Demetri Mitchell urges Hibs to bounce back in derby as he reflects on 'mixed feelings' in Livingston loss

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As home debuts go, it doesn’t get much better than scoring after six minutes in front of 14,000+ Hibs fans not long after turning out for their bitter rivals across the city.

Demetri Mitchell’s late run placed him in the perfect position at the right time to slam home Chris Cadden’s cross at the back post. The 25-year-old was one of the Easter Road side’s most potent attacking threats until he tired midway through the second period and while it didn’t help Hibs’ cause as they surrendered their half-time lead, the former Blackpool man was one of few positives on a frustrating day in Leith.

“It was great to get a goal so early in my career here, especially in front of the fans at home, but the most important thing was the result and we never got that,” a crestfallen Mitchell said afterwards.

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“It was a good start. We played some good football in the first half, but it was a game of two halves and it’s definitely not the result we were looking for.

Demetri Mitchell wheels away after scoring on his first start for HibsDemetri Mitchell wheels away after scoring on his first start for Hibs
Demetri Mitchell wheels away after scoring on his first start for Hibs

“We came out after the break – I think they might have changed a few things tactically – but we were undone by two set pieces. That’s disappointing,” the wingback said, echoing his manager’s post-match comments.

“I never saw as much of the ball second half; they pressed a bit higher and made it difficult. The second half didn’t go to plan. But it’s a work in progress.”

Shaun Maloney and midfielder Joe Newell have both spoken recently about the progress being made at the club under the new regime. Hibs still look a little lightweight in attack but three goals is the most the side has conceded since the former Belgium No.2 arrived and Mitchell agreed that defensively, the team has to do better.

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“It was disappointing to concede the goals we did, especially one of them coming from a throw in as well. But we are a work in progress. It’s something we need to keep working on, ironing out the little mistakes.”

Hibs boss Shaun Maloney admitted disappointment with his side's second-half performance but praised Mitchell's performanceHibs boss Shaun Maloney admitted disappointment with his side's second-half performance but praised Mitchell's performance
Hibs boss Shaun Maloney admitted disappointment with his side's second-half performance but praised Mitchell's performance

There is the small matter of an Edinburgh derby on Tuesday night; a match which Mitchell has understandably had his eye on.

“I was looking through the fixture list for the derby to see where it was. There really is no better game to bounce back. It’s a huge game on Tuesday night.

“Hopefully we can get a result and play some good football."

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Mitchell was serenaded with a few strains of that old classic, “used to be a Jambo but he’s alright now” after his goal on Saturday and he admits he is bracing himself for special treatment from the visiting fans in midweek, although not quite as positive.

Mitchell in full flight against Livingston's Odin BaileyMitchell in full flight against Livingston's Odin Bailey
Mitchell in full flight against Livingston's Odin Bailey

“I’ll get a warm reception, I’m pretty sure of that,” he grinned. “I’m ready for it though. I’m a Hibs player now and I’m raring to get going and keep progressing.

“Pressure doesn’t bother me, I don’t mind it. I’m a footballer and we all have to deal with pressure.”

Have there been any messages from Hearts fans since signing for Hibs?

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“I have had a bit of stick for coming here. That’s part and parcel of being a footballer, and it is what it is.

“But I was on loan from Manchester United when I was at Hearts. I’m a Hibs player now and that’s what I’m focused on – I’m looking forward not back.

“I know how big the game is. I know how big playing in the Scottish Premiership is.

“The lads here have embraced me and I get along with them all. Hopefully we can get a result on Tuesday.”

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Mitchell’s first start for Hibs, and the return of Ryan Porteous after suspension, meant another different backline for Hibs but Maloney avoided using it as a contributing factor in the defeat.

“I don't think that back five will have played together but I can't really use that as a big excuse,” he explained afterwards.

"The way that we set up at set plays, it shouldn't matter which players are on the pitch. The set plays shouldn’t result in first contact for the opponent, like the first goal, when one of your players makes a decision and gets it wrong, that can happen.”

So onto the derby now for Hibs. Hearts defeated Motherwell 2-0 at the weekend and present a threat. Their last visit to Easter Road ended in a 3-1 victory against the odds. Daniel Stendel’s team had been struggling at the wrong end of the table but swept Hibs aside shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic suspended football.

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Maloney wants to win every game, naturally, but a victory over the club’s rivals would surely reduce the jeering that greeted the full-time whistle on Saturday.

"You know, the derby hasn't been on my mind until now,” Maloney said.

"Against Livingston it just feels like we had an opportunity to progress in the league but the second half was really disappointing. I knew when I took the job that there was a lot of work needed in certain areas, and there was a reason Hibs were on the run they were.”

Despite the chorus of booing that filled Easter Road at 4.55pm on Saturday, the players are still very much on board with Maloney’s plans to take the team to the level they shoud be playing at week in, week out.

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Mitchell added: “We are all buying into the manager’s message. We are working hard every day in training on the message he is getting across.

"Hopefully we can show it against Hearts because there’s no better game to bounce back in.”

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