The 8 most significant Hibs games from this season

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A look at the games which have defined Hibs’ season up until the coronavirus postponement

It had been an intriguing season for Hibs up to the point when the campaign was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak. Former boss Paul Heckingbottom was replaced by Jack Ross before the half-way stage, while the team have gone from being in amongst the relegation battle early on to having their eye on the European spots. The Hibees also reached the last four of both domestic cup competitions.

We look at the key games of the season:

Stirling Albion 1 – 1 Hibs – Betfred Cup group stage, 13 July

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Jack Ross was brought in to replace Paul Heckingbottom in November. Picture: SNSJack Ross was brought in to replace Paul Heckingbottom in November. Picture: SNS
Jack Ross was brought in to replace Paul Heckingbottom in November. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

“July 13th and already Hibs in crisis” bemoaned one fan after Heckingbottom’s side won an extra bonus point against the League Two opposition in their first competitive fixture of the season. Yet, those fans who raised concerns about the side’s performance and inability to defeat their lowly opposition were, in time, proven to be correct.

Five of the summer signings started the match and the visitors looked comfortable in the first half but gradually there were signs what was to come this campaign. Doidge missed a really good chance, Newell failed to impose himself on the wing and despite getting in front they weren’t able to hold onto the lead.

Perhaps most frustratingly, once Stirling had equalised through an excellent strike there seemed little urgency to find a winner. The hearty boos at full-time painted a clear picture.

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Stirling Albion 1-1 Hibs: How the Hibs players rated
Scott Allan's substitution against St Johnstone was met with boos. Picture: SNSScott Allan's substitution against St Johnstone was met with boos. Picture: SNS
Scott Allan's substitution against St Johnstone was met with boos. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

Hibs 2 – 2 St Johnstone – Ladbrokes Premiership, 24 August

When managers aim criticism towards supporters they need to have built up plenty of credit. They have to have a real standing amongst the support, one of respect and admiration. Paul Heckingbottom wasn’t in that position, but when he said the fans’ frustration and anxiety had fed to the players it was quite the power move. More was to follow when he uttered the line "I didn't know there was a law against taking him off”.

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That was in relation to substituting Scott Allan around the hour mark with Hibs winning 1-0. The move provoked anger and boos from the Easter Road stands. The home side would go on to draw 2-2 with Jason Kerr netting very late on to bring even more boos, and Tommy Wright blowing kisses to the Main Stand.

Heckingbottom sought to clarify his comments but it was clear that pressure was beginning to build on the Englishman amongst the Hibs support, especially as the result came only a couple of weeks after a 6-1 hammering at Rangers.

Paul Heckingbottom's final match in charge came against Celtic in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNSPaul Heckingbottom's final match in charge came against Celtic in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS
Paul Heckingbottom's final match in charge came against Celtic in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

Hibs 1 – 2 Hearts – Scottish Premiership, 22 September

The match was billed as the P45 derby. Paul Heckingbottom v Craig Levein. From the combined ten league fixtures the Capital duo had played in the league, they had amassed just six points between them. Hearts sat 12th and Hibs 10th.

Since the 2-2 draw with St Johnstone, the Hibees delivered too largely anemic performances at Motherwell and Kilmarnock. Some amongst the travelling support aimed a “Hecky, Hecky get tae f***” chant at their manager during the defeat at Fir Park.

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Christian Doidge netted his first league goals for Hibs AFTER Paul Heckingbottom's departure. Picture: SNSChristian Doidge netted his first league goals for Hibs AFTER Paul Heckingbottom's departure. Picture: SNS
Christian Doidge netted his first league goals for Hibs AFTER Paul Heckingbottom's departure. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

Pressure only intensified after the defeat to bottom of the table Hearts after taking the lead through Stevie Mallan’s wonder strike. That was something which became a real feature of Hibs under Heckingbottom, the inability to hold onto leads.

In his 11 league matches in charge this season, the team chucked away 13 points from winning positions.

Hibs 2 – 5 Celtic – Betfred Cup semi-final, 2 November

Despite vociferous calls for Heckingbottom to be sacked after the Hearts loss he held on and led Hibs on a six-game unbeaten run. Only, the six-game unbeaten run was five draws in the league and a penalty shoot-out win over Kilmarnock in the Betfred Cup. Prior to the trip to Hampden, the side had rallied to draw at home to Livingston when it looked like time was up for the ex-Leeds United man.

The Saturday evening clash at Hampden Park was a disaster. Despite twice getting back into the match, they were thoroughly beaten with a number of Heckingbottom signings struggling. Maxwell didn’t look confident at all in goal, James was given a torrid time at right-back and Josh Vela’s display provoked the ire of many Hibs fans in Glasgow that evening.

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Speaking after the match, Heckingbottom looked like a man who had just been told he was about to go in the ring with Tyson Fury. At that moment it was easy to see that his days were numbered. Two to be precise.

Martin Boyle netted twice in an easy win over Hearts at Tynecastle. Picture: SNSMartin Boyle netted twice in an easy win over Hearts at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS
Martin Boyle netted twice in an easy win over Hearts at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

St Johnstone 1 – 4 Hibs – Scottish Premiership, 9 November

After the win, interim boss Eddie May brought about a few wry smiles amongst the assembled journalists when he claimed he had not watched the first team that season, preferring to concentrate on the academy. For a man who hadn’t watched the team, he sure knew how to fix it, making the changes fans had been calling out for.

A bug bear for supporters of Heckingbottom’s tenure was a reluctance to play Florian Kamberi and Christian Doidge together as a strike partnership. May did so and reaped the rewards. The strike duo combined for the first two goals – the former setting up the latter. The summer signing completed his hat-trick in the second half to become ‘Hat-trick Boy’. It was his first league goals for the club after passing up a number of opportunities under Heckingbottom.

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The resounding win and dominant performance gave incoming boss Jack Ross a blueprint in which to build on.

Hearts 0 – 2 Hibs – Scottish Premiership, 26 December

Earlier in the month, Jack Ross’ side put in one of their most complete performances of the season as they seen off an Aberdeen side which had caused issues over the years, especially with a robust style of play. Hibs made them look ordinary.

If Aberdeen were made to look ordinary, Hearts were made to look obsolete in Hibs’ most comfortable win at Tynecastle since the millennium derby in December 1999. Martin Boyle twice took advantage of slack defensive play from the home side as Ross led his side to a prominent victory.

While not as significant as simply getting the derby bragging rights, it was a big message from Hibs after Hearts had a sly dig at their rivals when announcing the appointment of Daniel Stendel, the German having led Barnsley to promotion ahead of Sunderland, whom Ross was in charge of. Come the full-time whistle the Hibees sat fifth, Hearts bottom with a gap of 13 points as the two teams headed in opposite directions.

Hibs 5 – 2 Inverness CT – Scottish Cup

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Hampden Park has been a popular place for Hibs in recent years. Since 2012, the Easter Road faithful have made the trip along the M8 to Mount Florida on eight occasions. A thumping win over John Robertson’s Highlanders would make it nine – whenever the semi-final with Hearts is played.

Hibs have been a formidable cup team and the win on the Friday night in front of the TV cameras showed everyone that Jack Ross’ side may well have been the most entertaining club in Scotland prior to the shutdown.

Against an ICT side which didn’t make it overly hard, Hibs let it be known that on their day they are a fantastic counter-attacking side with so much pace and dynamism with plenty of individual quality. Yet, at the same time a vulnerability in defence.

Aberdeen 3 – 1 Hibs – Scottish Premiership, 7 March

The final match before the world changed and Scottish football went into lockdown epitomised the two sides of Jack Ross’ Hibs. The visitors were well worth their half-time lead handed to them by Christian Doidge. Even before the Welshman’s fine strike, they were unlucky not to be well ahead in the match.

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The team had clearly bounced back from the midweek defeat to Hearts days earlier where the side’s defensive deficiencies came to the fore. Against Aberdeen, Hibs displayed the qualities they possess going forward, their attacking width supplied by Martin Boyle, directness of the midfield and Scott Allan’s creative threat. At the same time, the lack of out-and-out defensive midfielder was apparent as Steven Whittaker was needlessly sent off before issues reared their head.

It cemented the idea that while Jack Ross had certainly improved Hibs, it wouldn’t be his team until he had a summer transfer window in which to work with them.