Simon Murray: Hibs will learn from unexpected defeat

Simon Murray
Simon Murray
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It all had to come to an end on day but, admitted Hibs striker Simon Murray, he didn’t expect the Easter Road outfit’s impressive start to the season to be brought to such a shuddering halt.

Other than a meaningless penalty shoot-out defeat by Ross County, Neil Lennon’s players had negotiated their early games in style, cruising into the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup and marking their return to the Premiership after a three-year absence with wins over Partick Thistle and Rangers.

Louis Longridge scores Hamilton's second goal at Easter Road

Louis Longridge scores Hamilton's second goal at Easter Road

The victory at Ibrox was particularly enjoyable, the lurid headlines which followed that explosive encounter somewhat eclipsing the fact Neil Lennon’s players had produced a performance to remember, one which could easily have seen them enjoy an even greater margin than the final 3-2 scoreline.

There had also been goals galore, 24 scored in those seven games with Murray himself netting ten of them as he set about silencing those who had questioned his arrival from Dundee United.

Against that background a visit from Hamilton, the side which had consigned Hibs to Championship football but had since been forced to battle each season to retain their status in the top flight of Scottish football, appeared to one and all – bar those in the Accies’ camp – a rather easier obstacle to negotiate.

Instead, Murray and his team-mates found themselves being brought crashing back to earth as Martin Canning’s side took total control of the second half, running out deserved 3-1 winners as they reduced Hibs to a pale shadow of the side which had won so much praise in the few weeks beforehand.

For once Murray, who had scored in each of his five previous outings, didn’t find himself on the scoresheet although he admitted to having missed one decent first half chance, heading a Danny Swanson corner wide, which he argued might have put a different complexion on a game which at that point was goal-less.

At the end of the day, though, there were no excuses. Lennon and his players readily accepted that Hamilton had proved to be by far the better side, even if the tacit admission in doing so was that they had fallen far below the standards they’d been setting themselves.

However, as disappointing as it may have been, Murray insisted those 90 minutes had to be kept in perspective, pointing out that, after all, Hibs remain very much the Premiership’s new boys.

The 25-year-old said: “Obviously everything had been going fine. It’s harder to take when you have been playing well, going somewhere like Ibrox and cruising through the game, but it is just one result.

“You aren’t going to win every game. On paper Hamilton are not as good as Rangers and we’d been well warned during the week of the pitfalls but perhaps it’s the lesson we need to learn, that these game as are just as hard as the big matches in a different way.”

Other than suggesting “things just did not click”, Murray admitted he was at a loss to explain how such a comedown materialised.

He said: “I thought we had more of the ball in the first half. We had a couple of chances, I had one I should have put away, but it was all very disappointing.

“Had we taken those openings it could have been a different story.

“No-one goes out there thinking that’s going to be the outcome, but football is a strange game.

“Everything just seemed to go flat for us. It wasn’t as if one or two players weren’t quite at it, it was an off-day for all of us. You don’t mean to play like that, it just happens for no apparent reason.

“It was bitterly disappointing but now it’s a matter of getting back out on the training ground and making sure it doesn’t happen again and there’s no reason why we can’t get back on track against Dundee on Sunday.”

Former Hibs defender Canning described his team’s performance as “the most complete” during his time as Hamilton manager, but again Accies showed why they’ve managed to beat the odds which make them favourites to be relegated each season.

Hamilton, in fact, only retained their place in the Premiership a few months ago via the play-offs, beating Murray’s Dundee United by a single goal over a two-legged final in which many felt the Tannadice outfit were the better team.

Murray said: “You respect every team but they have been punching above their weight and have survived. They are not a big club but they stay in there every year.

“They are a hard-working side, it’s something they obviously work on but as they showed on Saturday, they can also play a bit.”

Now Lennon’s players face the prospect of Sunday’s trip to Dens Park, Murray admitting he’s relishing the opportunity to play for his new club in his home town but aware of the fact that despite losing all three of their opening league games, Neil McCann’s side will pose as many problems as Hamilton.

He said: “Dundee have had a disappointing start having not picked up a point so far but they’ll be desperate to kick-start their season as soon as possible.

“As everyone knows, we have had a good start to the season and it’s up to us to make sure we go up there and prove losing to Accies was no more than a blip.

“On a personal level I am looking forward to playing there and, having been with United, I’m sure their fans will give me a warm welcome.”

And while it may only be one game without a goal, Murray insisted he’s determined to ensure he doesn’t go a second match without getting the ball into the net.

The striker said: “You can’t score every week, there’s no striker in the world who can do that.

“Hamilton defended very well, we didn’t get much in the way of chances in the second half but I was a little disappointed not to get a goal. It wasn’t my best game, nowhere near it, so hopefully I can put that right on Sunday.”

Another bumper gate of 16,633, boosted by only 217 Hamilton supporters, had turned up at Easter Road in expectation, the display and result inevitably provoking a few boos on the final whistle but, believes Murray, amid their disappointment, the Hibs fans were in forgiving mood.

He said: “The fans have been great since I arrived at the club and they were the same at the weekend. If I’d been sitting among them watching that I wouldn’t have been happy.

“There were a few boos which is to be expected, but maybe there was an understanding from them that what they were seeing was an off-day. They’ll be at Dens Park in their numbers so it’s up to us to prove that’s the case.”