Shape-shifting Hibs benefit from new blood - John Greechan's Talking Points

Scottish Cup win over Inverness inspired by Boyle's chaotic energy
Myziane Maolida celebrates opening the scoring for Hibs.Myziane Maolida celebrates opening the scoring for Hibs.
Myziane Maolida celebrates opening the scoring for Hibs.

There’s something uniquely satisfying about booking your place in the next round of a cup competition. A feeling of achievement that can be hard to replicate in the long slog of a league season. Hibs were entitled, then, to be in a contented mood as the bus wound its back to HQ through sleet, rain and heavy fog last night.

Beyond merely securing a spot in next month’s Scottish Cup quarterfinals, though, what was the win in Inverness worth to Nick Montgomery and his men? A mood lifter and a confidence booster, yesterday’s victory gave them a chance to celebrate a win – and celebrate each other – at a time when they needed to feel good about themselves. And it produced a few interesting Talking Points. Which is just as well, for those who don’t like blank spaces where weekly features should be …

The shape of things to come

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People can get all bent out of kilter about formations, mainly because they mistake living, breathing, running footballers for Subbuteo pieces only able to make limited movements within their specific sphere of influence. While there’s no doubt that Hibs switching to a 4-3-3/4-5-1 has coincided with an upturn in performance, we shouldn’t mistake correlation for causation.

As important as the shape chosen for yesterday’s Highland adventure was the availability of key personnel for specific positions. So, for instance, Eliezer Mayenda was able to get a much-needed 45 minutes on the left of a front three because Jordan Obita’s ability to overlap down the wing created opportunities for the Spanish teenager to drive inside. When Elie Youan came on at half-time, the more experienced attacker possibly took greater advantage of those decoy runs.

Nectar Triantis enjoyed a much less frantic outing in central defence because, for instance, Nathan Moriah-Walsh and Joe Newell did so much donkey work in front of the back four. Dylan Levitt impressing after replacing a still-undercooked Luke Amos at half-time was also important. And Adam Le Fondre looked sharp as a second-half sub. Things are shaping up nicely, in a lot of different departments, for Hibs.

An in-form Martin Boyle is worth his weight in medals

The Socceroos star certainly doesn’t appear physically weary or mentally broken after the heartbreak of early elimination from the Asian Cup. Partly because he’s been returned to his favoured position on the right wing, and partly because he seems to generate his own energy field through force of personality, the dressing room favourite had his team-mates buzzing with yesterday’s performance.

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Take a look at the killer second goal. Some players wouldn’t have gambled on the defender making a mistake. Others might have been on their heels and unable to turn a Caley crisis into a drama.

Boyle lives for that sort of chaos. Was almost laughing as he tucked the ball away from a tight angle. With an assist to go with his goal, a first for Hibs since December 9, coincidentally also the last time they won a league game, he’s more than welcome back.

New recruits are still finding their feet

Five of Montgomery’s seven January signings started the game in Inverness. Emiliano Marcondes, who had missed the midweek match through injury, came off the bench. And Owen Bevan, a centre-half signed on loan despite turning up injured, wasn’t available. Clearly, he wants to put his stamp on the team as quickly as possible.

But the manager is smart enough to know that he can’t just bury new boys – some of whom haven’t played much of what you’d call proper competitive football this season – under a mountain of minutes and a tonne of expectations. He has to blood them at the right time, pick the good moments.

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Of the five starters, Moriah-Welsh was busy, Mayenda adventurous, Triantis a little less jittery, Amos quieter than his fellow new faces. And Myziane Maolida? It doesn’t matter that his goal came via a deflection. He bought a ticket and won the lottery.

The Comoros international just has the look and feel of someone who will hit the net quite regularly. And surely one of those overhead kick attempts has to come off before the end of the season, right?

Chrissy Cadden is a bona fide geezer and all-round good egg

There’s a reason why the Hibs players stood and applauded the fullback in the dressing room at the end of yesterday’s game. They know how hard Cadden has worked to get back from the Achilles’ injury sustained in the final fixture of last season. They’ve seen him plodding away on the long road to recovery – and recognised a guy who never wavered in his commitment to getting back on the pitch.

So, sure, he may only have been on the pitch for 10 minutes, including injury time, in Inverness. But all the examinations and exercise, the post-surgery immobility, the long waits for results, melted away when he took to the field on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon. Anyone who enjoys football should be glad to see him back.

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