Terry Butcher today hailed the makeshift team which earned Hibs their first win in six matches and took the Easter Road club to within a point of the Scottish Premiership’s top six.
The Hibs boss revealed how he was unable to name his side to face Ross County until just 24 hours before kick-off as a mounting injury list left his plans in disarray.
Already without suspended club captain Liam Craig and the experienced Kevin Thomson and Owain Tudur Jones through injury, Butcher lost another first-teamer in midfielder Scott Robertson after he suffered medial ligament damage in the Under-20 derby win over Hearts last Tuesday, while Tom Taiwo and Duncan Watmore fought races against time to prove their fitness.
Watmore eventually had to admit defeat, failing to shake off the foot injury sustained during his debut against Raith Rovers, but Taiwo, enjoying a renaissance in recent weeks having found himself out of Butcher’s thoughts, made it.
Even so, Hibs’ starting line-up bore a distinctly unfamiliar look as Danny Handling was drafted in for his first start in two months in partnering Danny Haynes up front, who himself was making his first Hibs start, while Sam Stanton dropped into a deeper midfield role.
However, whatever worries Butcher may have harboured evaporated as goals from Stanton and Taiwo earned Hibs the points, the Hibees boss adamant his side should have killed County off long before Staggies skipper Richie Brittain threw the Dingwall outfit a lifeline with half-an-hour remaining.
Butcher said: “We’d had to hold off because Tom had strained a hip flexor during the week and was touch and go as was Duncan. So we had to leave it to Friday when Duncan pulled out meaning we only had that day to work. When I named the team I asked Danny Handling if he was surprised to be in it and he was.
“Tom was the same, but both showed great character and took the chances presented to them.
“This team had never played together before, it was a side newcomers, the old brigade and people coming out of the wilderness like Tom. But I thought what they did was exciting and to have our two central midfielders score was encouraging. The youngsters in the team do excite you, particularly Sam and Danny Handling, it was just terrific to see them play.
“It was also good to get the back five back together again, that gave us a platform to play. All the players, though, showed a good appetite for the game, we had opportunities to kill it off and didn’t take them which led to a frantic sort of finish to the match but I was just delighted to get the three points.”
Butcher’s counterpart Derek Adam claimed his side were worth at least a draw, but the Hibs boss, enjoying a third successive win over his one-time Highland rivals, rejected that suggestion saying: “I thought we were by far the better side and deserved all three points.”