No doom, no gloom, no 'lumping it up the park' - Hibs skipper

Newell in action at Celtic Park.Newell in action at Celtic Park.
Newell in action at Celtic Park. | SNS Group
Newell insist Monty masterplan holds key to success

No panic, no over-reaction, no tearing of hair or kicking of water bottles all over East Mains. Work the problem. OK, then, problems. Fix the most glaring weaknesses.

Just as importantly, remember the things that went well. Not just the brief moments of respite and encouragement during Wednesday night’s heavy loss to Celtic in Glasgow. But the football that set Hibs on a three-game winning streak before their midweek mauling.

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As Joe Newell puts, there can be no return to the “lump it up the pitch” tactics adopted by so many teams under stress. Not when the players can see such obvious rewards for keeping the faith in Nick Montgomery’s masterplan.

Newell, the on-field captain who has been integral to a run of just two league defeats in 12 games under Monty, with both losses coming away from home against the Old Firm, isn’t guilty of ridiculous optimism when he declares: “We’ve been brilliant lately. So there’s no doom or gloom, it’s not a big disaster or anything. We are in a good place.

“We are at a football club where every game is huge. We went to Parkhead fully expecting to be competitive and try and win the game. We didn’t go there to roll over, we never would do.

“There are different ways to play football obviously. Teams will go to Parkhead and sit behind the ball. Motherwell did that the other week and got a draw and fair play to them.

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“But we are not going to do that. Since the gaffer has come in, he has been very clear on how he wants us to play and we are all together as a club going forward. The fans are starting to come on board to it now. I think they are appreciating it.

“There will be lessons from last night, but it is about staying with our philosophy and our beliefs. Hopefully further down the line we will go to Parkhead, play the same way - and get results.”

That’s a laudable long-term aim, one sure to find favour among a travelling support who afforded their team a warm ovation at the end of a difficult 90 minutes at Celtic Park. There is no longer any debate, among those paying close enough attention, over the merits of Montgomery’s approach; this is how Hibs are going to play.

If supporters are still understandably worried about the risks being taken in beginning the build-up so close to their own goal, well, that’s fine. Because the players themselves know that this version of Hibs remains very much a work in progress.

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Insisting that they’ll only get better at implementing a system reliant on sure touches and well-timed movement, Newell pointed out: “The manager has only been here two or three months, not that long really. We haven’t had a pre-season with him, there have been a lot of games.

“It will take time; it will not happen overnight. But I think the change you have seen already has been quite drastic. I have felt it personally playing in it.

“Not many teams will go to Parkhead and try and play like we did. We obviously lost, but we won’t go away from what we are doing - and the manager won’t want us to do that. It’s good. When it comes off, it is really good to watch.

“For me personally I prefer it to your old school lump it up the pitch style. It is a work in progress, but we will carry on and won’t change.”

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Whatever positives might be gleaned from reviewing any number of “what if” moments at Celtic Park, the loss of a goal from a corner kick after just four minutes is impossible to overlook, Newell admitting: “Every manager and every player will say that is their biggest bugbear in football, losing a goal from a set piece. You think you can be solid there whether you are zonal or man for man. We will look back on that and try to rectify it. When you go and play a team like Celtic, they have got such good players and they can cut you open so easily. To concede a goal from a set piece feels a bit cheap really.

“I think we just gave ourselves a mountain to climb didn’t we? When you go to Parkhead you have got to be tight and difficult to beat first and foremost. We obviously gave them a head start early doors. That is the most frustrating thing. It was the same thing at the start of the second half.

 “I think we have to be better in both boxes. Football is won and lost in both boxes. You try to get control of the game in midfield. But we weren’t clinical enough in both boxes. In the first half we missed two one-on-ones. Not that they were great chances, but on another day, they might go in. Listen, I wouldn’t say we deserved anything from the game, but I think we can definitely be better than we were in both boxes, definitely.”

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