Why Ross County is the beginning of an already crucial juncture for Hibs this season
So far things have been… OK. Not great, but OK. They’re sixth in the table, which isn’t ideal, though sit just two points behind third place.
There have already been some dreadful performances, not least of which in the Premier Sports Cup, but it’s a new manager dealing with a raft of new arrivals, so there was always likely to be some teething problems.
They’ve lost only twice in seven league fixtures and are on a two-game winning streak, but in both matches they were helped out by first-half red cards for the opposition, while their penchant for scoring last-minute goals is not sustainable across the course of the campaign.
Lee Johnson comes out with some eyebrow-raising soundbites in his interviews, yet he’s got the team playing a brand of football which is certainly an upgrade on the previous incumbent Shaun Maloney – who didn’t exactly come across as Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday either.
So, all in all, it’s been fine. Hibs fans would like it to be better than that and it certainly feels achievable.
Down the flanks there is an abundance of talent. Chris Cadden is a known commodity bombing up and down from right-back, while Marijan Čabraja has been one of the best signings the club has made this summer on the other side of the back four. There’s talisman Martin Boyle on the right wing and, even though he’s yet to show it with any sort of consistency, Elie Youan certainly has the pace and skill to elevate his play to much higher levels than we’ve seen thus far.
At goalkeeper, David Marshall has proven to be as strong an addition as was perceived with his summer signing. Josh Campbell has quickly changed perceptions of him and is thriving at the tip of the midfield three. And loan striker Mykola Kukharevych enjoyed a promising debut against Aberdeen where he performed the hold-it-up-and-win-headers facilitator role which Christian Doidge did so well before injury and dramatic loss of form.
There are still concerns at the base of midfield and central defence, with Ryan Porteous now clearly a level above any of his peers at the position, but with Kyle Magennis, Kevin Nisbet and Demetri Mitchell still to return there is plenty of reasons to be hopeful overall.
It’s now about finding some consistency and maintaining a run of results. They have three away trips in their next four games, but two of those are against Ross County and Dundee United. Both are currently in the bottom three. With winnable home games against Motherwell and St Johnstone also coming up, there’s a real opportunity to take at least 10 points from the next 15 available before the impressive St Mirren come to town on October 29.
Even in victory Hibs haven’t felt like they’ve fully clicked. The international break will help in that regard, but nothing speeds up the process more than winning football matches. Keep the snowball rolling on Saturday and the sun will begin rising again over Leith.