Why the new Hibs manager can use the St Johnstone game as a template - and the rest of the season as what not to do

The new Hibs manager can use Saturday's 4-1 win over St Johnstone as a template when taking over

Sunday, 10th November 2019, 3:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 10th November 2019, 4:20 pm

“I've never watched Hibs all season."

Eddie May's revelation that he has not witnessed the Easter Road first team in action once this season raised a few eyebrows in the press room. Some thought 'surely that can't be right', others queried whether he was telling the truth with one hack adamant he had seen the club's head of academy coaching in the dugout at one point this campaign.

While the first reaction was surprise, the second should have been 'what a lucky so-and-so'.

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Hibs were excellent in defeating St Johnstone 4-1. Picture: SNS
Hibs were excellent in defeating St Johnstone 4-1. Picture: SNS

He, unlike thousands of Hibs fans, have not had to suffer as the side toiled, misplaced passes, failed to tackle and track runners, frittered away leads and failed to win in 90 minutes since the opening day of the season.

Until Saturday afternoon in Perth, that was. Just shy of the 100 day mark - 98 to be precise.

And what a performance it was. Aggression, control, intensity and penetration. An end product.

Which brings us back to May's comments. They can be taken two ways.

Either, in just a few days worth of training he was able to expertly assess the squad at his disposal and grasp the best system to not only combat their opponents but get the best out of the team as individuals and as a collective.

Conversely, he has actually watched Hibs these season and largely picked a team and system which the fans had been urging Paul Heckingbottom to select.

Firstly, two strikers.

Florian Kamberi and Christian Doidge were fielded together. It brought a mixture of excitement and relief among the support prior to the match. They had been crying out for the two to work in tandem to get the best out of one another.

The Swiss forward's best spell at Easter Road was partnering Jamie McClaren, a player whose main attribute was in the box sniffing out chances. Arriving in the summer that's what was expected of Doidge, yet his finishing has been wayward. Excessively so.

Both work better in a pair. It means the opposition defence can be occupied, Scott Allan has two targets in front of him to find and Hibs can exert more pressure.

Doidge will get the headlines due to his three goals, the third one - a powerful header - the pick of the bunch. But it was Kamberi who was the star in attack. The 24-year-old may have been one of those who St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright suggested were working harder but with a strike partner he was able to forage and fight, drift and destroy. He was everywhere in the final third.

Just over a minute in, he put a bit of pressure on Jason Kerr with the Saints captain crumbling before playing a pass into Doidge's path for the opener. Then Kamberi bombed past Scott Tanser and fired a low cross for his strike partner to double the scoring. He never stopped moving and deserved a goal.

Behind them there was significant change. Josh Vela wasn't in the squad, while Stevie Mallan was a late substitute.

The midfield, for one of the first times this season, was balanced and working as a unit. Melker Hallberg was excellent at the base protecting the defence, while Joe Newell and particularly Vykintas Slivka added a bit more mobility and bite to support Scott Allan.

Hibs were dangerous down the right, Jason Naismith epitomising the change in the mood around the team. Snarling, demanding, aggressive. Every St Johnstone attacker seemed to be on the end of a thumping challenge, while he constantly looked to support the play.

It was as if someone had flicked on a light switch. Instead of looking like individuals who had woken from a sleep, fumbling around to find the door in the dark, there was no more confusion. Each player and the team as a whole looked like they knew exactly what they were doing.

Ex-Liverpool and Leeds United star Harry Kewell attracted attention by taking his seat in the McDiardmid Park Main Stand but as of yet Jack Ross maintains his place as the frontrunner, certainly going by the bookies odds.

If, like Eddie May, the new incumbent has not watched Hibs at all this season. He can be shown Saturday's performance as a template to take the team forward. Don't bother with the rest of the campaign so far.

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