Mr Versatile, pressing concerns and practical solutions - Hibs talking points
Monty's men can take heart from gritty win
Heading into another international break on the back of a win – any kind of a win, regardless of aesthetic quality – makes life a lot easier for everyone at Hibs.
The fine detail behind their victory over Kilmarnock, as redoubtable an opponent as the Scottish Premiership has to offer, also provides a few salient indicators of the progress made under Nick Montgomery. And the hard yards still to be covered before this team resembles even a consistent top-six side.
Still working with players inherited from more than one predecessor, a contributing factor in a recruitment policy that hasn’t always made a lot of sense to outside assessors, Monty is also learning on the job. Figuring out the niceties of a league where every blade of grass, real or artificial, is considered disputed territory.
So, the key talking points to take away from a 1-0 win hewn from the hard face of an intense conflict at Easter Road? Let’s begin …
It doesn’t matter where you play him – Josh Campbell brings a goal threat to the team
Deployed as a centre forward in the midweek draw with St Mirren, Campbell found the net in his first start under Montgomery.
Played slightly tucked in from the flank in a lop-side four against Killie, very much a right midfielder as opposed to Jair Tavares’ left winger, he scored again. He then spent the final 20-odd minutes partnering Martin Boyle in an improvised front two.
For someone who always considered himself an attacking midfielder, the 23-year-old is showing real versatility. And he’s had to work for his chance, finally getting proper game time almost eight weeks into Monty’s time as manager.
The head coach is pleased with what he’s seen, saying: “I’m really happy for Josh, that’s two in two for him. He’s a player who’s probably been frustrated the first couple of weeks, but he’s kept his head down, worked hard and now he’s got his reward.
“He went wide at times against Kilmarnock, and then moved up into the middle. That’s where he can really help us. He’s adapted to playing that and worked hard for his chance.
“It’s good to see a player get in and get his just rewards.”
Scottish Premiership teams are working tirelessly to stifle Hibs
Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes went into great detail about how his team had specifically planned for this fixture, revealing: “We tried to get after Hibs. The game plan was to knock them out their stride.
“They have such a talented front line. They have invested heavily in it, and you can see they have real quality - so we wanted to keep them as far away from our goal as possible.
‘We have quick defenders and that allowed us to press the game. We got into good areas and there was a bit of frustration amongst the home support.”
The fact that it didn’t quite come off for Killie is unlikely to discourage other coaches with ambitions to simply press and harry Hibs out of their rhythm.
The great irony, of course, is that Montgomery actually WANTS opponents to press high. That’s why he instructs his team to play out from the back; if the other guys are all trying to close down the goalie, two central defenders and a midfielder dropping in as an option, a couple of good passes can quickly put Hibs on the attack in good numbers.
There is a place for pragmatism
Getting Martin Boyle as close to the opposition goal as possible, then hoping he makes something happen? It makes a lot of sense.
Montgomery’s substitutions, specifically designed to stiffen sinews as much as stretch Killie, also had a very practical feel to them, as he chased a result that mattered more than most.