Analysis as Hibs went down 1-0 to Capital rivals Hearts at Easter Road.
Neil Lennon admitted himself he’s beginning to sound like a broken record regarding his frustrations over player availability. The Easter Road side were without 11 first-team regulars for the visit of their biggest rivals due to injury and international commitments. Lennon had a strong enough 11 on paper but a quick glance at the subs' bench told a story in itself. Of those listed only David Gray, Marvin Bartley and Emerson Hyndman could be considered matchday regulars. The pace and directness of Martin Boyle was a big miss as the home side found limited success getting in behind the Hearts backline. The three-week break has definitely come at a good time for Lennon and his threadbare squad, who head to Dubai next week.
Hibs lost the midfield battle
So often this match is won or lost in midfield. Hibs have enjoyed a fair bit of success in the middle of the park in recent derbies, particularly at Easter Road. The last game in Leith in March saw Hibs line up with the formidable trio of John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan, with Marvin Bartley coming on late in the game as the Hibees ran out 2-0 winners. This evening’s clash, however, saw Stevie Mallan, Daryl Horgan and Vykintas Slivka occupy those positions but they came up well short against Hearts’ pairing of Peter Haring and Arnaud Djoum. Lennon elected not to bring on Bartley in the second half as Hibs sought an equaliser and instead went for the more forward-thinking Emerson Hyndman. In truth, the home side failed to pick out that killer pass in 90 minutes and were largely restricted to long-range efforts on goal.
Is Scott Allan on his way back to Easter Road?
Could Allan be about to join Hibs for a third time? His presence in the Main Stand at this evening’s match has sent the rumour mill into overdrive. He was happy to pose for selfies with Hibs supporters who are desperate to see the creative midfielder in a green-and-white jersey when the Premiership gets underway again at the end of next month. Failing that at least by the time February comes around. However, don’t be surprised if Celtic dig their heels given the way the champions’ pursuit of McGinn unfolded in the summer.
Lennon was coy after the match when asked if he knew Allan was watching on. “Was he in the Hearts end?” was his response. Watch this space.