Why victory against Motherwell could be a launchpad for remainder of Hibs' season

Joe Newell says the Hibs players are not daunted by gap of 12 points

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 6:00 am
Joe Newell has made a solid start to his Hibs career and is hoping to help propel the team into Europe

Twelve points may separate third-placed Motherwell and Hibs, currently sitting sixth in the Premiership table.

But Easter Road midfielder Joe Newell has insisted the gulf between the clubs if far from as wide as that statistic would suggest.

And he pointed to the fact that while Hibs were well beaten when they visited Fir Park early in the season, they enjoyed a well deserved win over the Steelmen the last time they met as proof of his argument.

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Newell, however, accepted an inconsistency on the part of the Capital side during the first half of the season explained why the clubs occupy their respective places in the league.

Today’s match in Lanarkshire, though, he claimed gives Jack Ross’s players, buoyed by a spirited midweek comeback to defeat Hamilton, the opportunity to lay out their intentions for the remainder of the campaign – namely to chase down a Europa League place.

“The gaffer has said a few times since he came here it’s pointless to be floating around mid-table, it’s boring,” he said. “You do not play football for that, you play to try to get as high up as you can.

“We want to be trying for those European places so we want to beat Motherwell, claw them back a bit and get closer to third and fourth – so our initial aim is to try to shorten the gap and get up the league.”

One of an influx of new players signed by former Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom last summer, former Rotherham United player Newell is surpised at finding Motherwell third at this juncture.

“It is, I suppose, a surprise,” he said. “I’m not fully shocked but if you’d asked me at the start of the season who would be third at this point, I wouldn’t have said Motherwell. It shows how well they have done and that’s credit to the players and manager there.

“We know they are a good team, they are not there by fluke. So we will go there aware of their qualities, their dangers. But we will look to exploit the weaknesses they will have.”

As confident as Hibs might be, Newell acknowledged Motherwell, fresh from a win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie, will be feeling just as good about themselves saying: “It’s one of them where both camps will be trying to focus on the better side of it.

“We will be going into the game knowing we were the better team and got a deserved victory when they came here. They’ll be flipping it the other way, that they have beaten us although we didn’t play very well.

“It’s going to be a tough game, they are a good side, but they will be aware of how good we can be.”

Ross’s players were just that in the second half against Hamilton, but it needed a half-time rocket from him and the use of all three substitutes to turn things around, striker Christian Doidge cancelling out Alex Gogic’s opener for Accies before Paul Hanlon grabbed a late winner.

Newell, who’d watched the first half from the bench before making an appearance after the interval to good effect, said: “The gaffer has shown a different side to him, but that was what was needed. It wasn’t as if it was uncalled for, we all knew it wasn’t good enough, but I think he got the reaction he wanted.

“Everyone wants to play, but when you are on the bench you are there for a reason, not just to watch. You are there to come on if needed and make an impact, so you have to try to be ready.

“It was nice to be on the other end of a comeback and a late winner, so it was a good win and an important win. It did show that other side of us, that we do have that character.”

Martin Boyle was the architect of the win, the Australian internationalist having a hand in both goals and Newell admitted he wasn’t surprised to be reading reports of interest from elsewhere.

He said: “He’s on fire at the moment, doing it week in week out so he is going to get that attention and the rumours.”