A DEFIANT Pat Fenlon today claimed that a failure to take chances was the reason behind Hibs crashing out of the League Cup, as Capital rivals Hearts defied the odds to claim a place in the semi-finals.
Ryan Stevenson’s first-half strike prompted a furious protest outside Easter Road following the final whistle, a sizeable and vocal gathering calling for the Irishman to be sacked while also venting their anger at chairman Rod Petrie and his fellow directors.
The group didn’t disperse until almost an hour-and-a-half later when it became evident that neither Fenlon nor Petrie would be leaving by the main exit, but while fans’ message boards also went into meltdown, the Evening News understands there will be no knee-jerk reaction in the shape of the manager being sacked.
Pressure, however, is mounting on Fenlon as his second anniversary as Hibs boss approaches, the 44-year-old having ridden out the storm a few months ago as the Edinburgh club made a miserable start to the season, humiliated in Europe by Malmo before losing their opening two Scottish Premiership matches against Motherwell and Hearts.
Fenlon, though, claimed last night’s defeat differed from that at Tynecastle in August – also by a single goal – saying: “In the first one we did not create enough chances. The only problem last night is we did not take the chances we created.”
He did have a point, Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald pulling off a string of impressive saves – the most notable an incredible stop from Scott Robertson in which he touched the midfielder’s netbound effort onto his crossbar while Paul Hanlon had seen an early header crash off the post. Hibs also passed up a number of other chances including a late opportunity for Liam Craig to equalise and take the game into extra-time although the home side were already further handicapped having seen skipper James McPake sent off for a two-footed lunge at Jambos striker Callum Paterson.
The bald statistics, however, show that Hibs have failed to score in eight of their 15 competitive matches this season and have found the net just nine times in 12 games against Premiership opposition.
Leigh Griffiths, scorer of 28 goals last season, was among the 16,797 crowd which only helped amplify Hibs’ difficulty in front of goal with James Collins replaced by 20-year-old Ross Caldwell who’d only enjoyed 11 minutes of first-team action in the past two months as Fenlon desperately sought an equaliser.
Asked if he was thinking of quitting as the fans protested, Fenlon replied: “I am not going to answer that. We did not win the game but I thought we played well, particularly in the first half when I thought we were tremendous.”
Fenlon was equally dismissive of a question as to whether he felt under pressure, saying: “No. I said when I took the job that if I can take them forward I will do my best to do that, but if not I have no problem with someone else doing that.”
He was tetchy when queried as to a rumour regarding a release clause in his contract appliable as of tomorrow. “I’m not going to talk about my contract,” he insisted, “That’s the club and my business and not for anyone else to discuss and I am not going to discuss it.”