Red-hot Hibs hitman Kevin Nisbet working hard to one day translate club feats into international glory

It is now seven goals and two assists in nine starts for a player some foolishly feared would not be able to replicate his goal feats in the lower leagues while operating at one of the biggest clubs in the country.

By Moira Gordon
Monday, 12th October 2020, 7:00 am
Hibernian's Kevin Nisbet celebrates scoring the winner in the Betfred Cup match against Cove Rangers. Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group

And as Kevin Nisbet applauds the international recognition meted out to Hibs team-mates Ryan Porteous and Paul McGinn, he has been warned that maintaining his current form should earn him similar opportunities under Steve Clarke.

Head coach Jack Ross never really had any doubts about the 23 year-old’s ability to shine when he splashed out to sign him for Hibs in the summer and having popped up with a beautiful finish that oozed striking class and nudged he Leithers another step towards progressing safely from the Betfred Cup group stage, Nisbet showed why.

Which is why his manager is tipping him for international honours in the not too distant future.

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What is required to make step up

“I just need to keep playing well and scoring goals and, hopefully, in the future that happens,” said Nisbet.

“It has been great to see the guys called up. Paull McGinn has really deserved it. His performances all season have been absolutely great and Porto [Ryan Porteous] has been the exact same so I'm delighted for them.”

Never involved at age group level, Nisbet says it would be better late than never if this season’s exploits convinces Scotland boss Clarke to give him a chance.

“It would be a dream. It is the pinnacle of your career, getting to play for the national team but my full focus is Hibs just now and Tuesday at Forfar.”

Station Park up next after half-time dressing-down

Hibs go into that cup match with limited numbers and manager Jack Ross will be looking for a better overall performance than the one served up by his men, particularly in the opening stages, against Cove Rangers on Saturday.

An animated figure in the away technical area, there was no doubting the tone or ferocity of the dressing room dressing down that the Hibernian players could expect when greeted by their gaffer and his assistant John Potter at half-time at the Balmoral Stadium.

Livid with the lack of focus, decision-making and execution of the basics as they took on a team ranked a couple of divisions below his own, the reshuffled side fell well below the standards set by the Easter Road club this season.

Stung into action, the lambasting fuelled a second-half display that allowed them to overhaul the early advantage earned by Paul Hartley’s side, who had taken the game to their supposedly more illustrious opponents, and taken a well-deserved lead in the 17th minute, courtesy of a Daniel Higgins set piece effort that beat the Hibs wall and goalkeeper Dillon Barnes, who was again deputising for first choice starter Ofir Marciano while he is on international business with Israel.

Not doing themselves any favours

The Leith side was again made up of players who had spent the opening quarter of the Premiership season warming the bench or watching from the stands. Finding it impossible to break into a side which had been boasting an average return of two points per game, enough to see them ensconced in third place in the league table, their boss had always had it in his mind to give them a run out in this cluster of Betfred League Cup.

But there was little in that first 45 minutes to threaten the immediate reinstatement of Ross’ first team regulars when league duty recommences in Dingwall next weekend.

The fact that even Kevin Nisbet, Christian Doidge and Martin Boyle were dragged down to their team-mates’ level was not lost on the Hibs manager but joined by Jamie Gullan, who was tasked with coming in from wide left, the attackers at least went some way to redeeming themselves with a couple of goals that gave them the victory, if not the glory.

With resources stretched and in a competition where there is little margin for error and the country’s top teams are in a no-win situation, the class of Kevin Nisbet was a major factor between the teams.

Nisbet did not escape Ross’ ire

His manager was quick to acknowledge the part his summer signing played, not just in the build up to Gullan’s 49th-minute leveller but with the exquisite finish he pulled out of the bag in the 60th minute, showing a lovely touch as he volleyed the winner high into the net. But, such are the demands at Hibs this season, that second half showing was not enough to get him off the hook entirely.

“Kevin, like others, was below the levels that we have set this season but he still has that ability to score goals,” said Ross. “He can score all types of goals and that is the good thing about him. He has been terrific since he came to the club and his contribution has been invaluable.”

“He was angry, rightly so,” said Nisbet of his manager’s half-time feedback. “I thought that in the first half we were sloppy and slack and we weren’t working hard enough. But we got a few words from the gaffer at half-time and we were better in the second half.”

No walk in part at Cove

But, such has been Nisbet’s rise through the football ranks, he can remember previous trips to face Cove and insists it was never likely to be easy for Hibs.

“I think I played here two years ago with Raith and they were very good back then as well. They have a good team and some great players and I thought they came out and were the much better team in the first half. We weren’t at the races.

“[Getting the first goal] gave them confidence and it was a great free-kick but we knew we would get some chances.

“We have a great group of boys and this shows that even when we are not playing well we are still winning and that’s the sign of a really good side.”