Why did Hibs field two holding midfielders against a team that had shipped six goals?

Michael Weir cannot understand Paul Heckingbottom's thinking

By Michael Weir
Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
Melker Hallberg tries to scape the attentions of Ross Countys Ewan Henderson at Easter Road
Melker Hallberg tries to scape the attentions of Ross Countys Ewan Henderson at Easter Road

I simply cannot understand why, being at home against Ross County, a side which had shipped six goals at Celtic Park seven days earlier, we set up with two holding midfielders against them.

I can understand why you might do that against the likes of Rangers, Celtic or Aberdeen but, no disrespect to Ross County, we should have been going out there making our intensions clear.

Instead, we’ve got two players doing nothing for me, two guys screening the back four when, to my mind, we should have had another more attack-minded player on.

Sign up to our Hibs football newsletter

The Staggies’ confidence must have been shaky following that rout against Celtic and I think if we’d gone with two up front we’d have asked a lot of questions of their two centre-backs.

Paul Heckingbottom obviously likes his 4-2-3-1 but you have to be willing to change things. Even when substitutes come on the shape doesn’t change, the opposition know exactly how we are going to play and aren’t forced into having to adapt.

When we went 2-0 up with goals scored in the space of just six minutes at the beginning of the second half I thought, no doubt like the majority of Hibs fans, we’d go on to win very comfortably with perhaps a couple more goals.

But for some reason we seem to get nervous when we get our noses in front, it’s happened week after week and it has costly us dearly.

Oppostion teams know that we’ll start to sit back and allow them into matches that should be over as far as they are concerned. Brian Graham came on, gave them a big presence at the top end, allowed them to put balls into the box and we just couldn’t handle it.

When you surrender territory and become deeper and deeper you are simply inviting trouble. When Graham scored you just knew they’d go on and get another. And, in truth, if he’d scored with that header immediately afterwards there’s every chance Ross County would have gone on and won the game.

A lot of new players arrived over the summer and it looks as if some of them just can’t handle the expectation of playing at a club like Hibs. They look nervous, are lacking in confidence and while I’m not faulting their efforts, it’s obviously a mental thing and something they are going to have to learn to deal with - and quickly.

I can’t imagine for one minute that if we’d had the likes of Darren McGregor, David Gray and Steven Whittaker on the park on Saturday that, having gone 2-0 up, we’d have come away with anything other than a win.

Joe Chalmers’ equaliser was well taken, but look at the space he had. Where were the players charging the ball, putting their bodies on the line. There are times when you have to take the pain.