Hibs may have caught the rest of the SPL by surprise with their start to the season, but as the first round of SPL fixtures draws to a close with a trip to Motherwell tonight, goalkeeper Ben Williams insisted the Easter Road outfit should be better off than they are.
After spending two seasons at the wrong end of the league, Pat Fenlon’s side have been enjoying life in the upper reaches in recent months, even briefly hitting top spot.
But enjoyable as it has been, Williams believes he and his team-mates should have three or four more points than the 15 gained from their ten matches so far which, had they done so, would today see them tucked in just a point adrift of leaders Celtic.
Instead, Fenlon’s players sit fourth and anxious to get back on the winning track at Fir Park following their defeat by Ross County last weekend, one of the rare occasions, according to Williams, when the Edinburgh club haven’t been on top of their game, surrendering at least one of those points the 30-year-old believes should have been their’s.
Tonight’s match, perhaps, provides the perfect “break point” to assess the season thus far but when the suggestion was made to Williams that Hibs were possibly just where they deserve to be, he replied: “To be honest, I would disagree. I think we should be higher than we are. There are points we have missed out on that have been our’s. We’ve contributed to our own downfall by conceding soft goals and we should probably have three or four points more, certainly at least another victory and a draw.”
Losing in Dingwall, having taken an early lead and being level with minutes to go, is a case in point, as was the draw with Inverness Caley at Easter Road when Fenlon’s players had secured a two-goal advantage. Williams said: “We are hungry to get as many points as possible. All the lads, the manager, the coaching staff go out for every game to win. We know that’s not possible but that’s what we drive to do so we are never going to be happy missing out on points and being lower in the table than we should be.
“Had we come away from Ross County with a point I think we would have been disappointed. Don’t take anything away from Ross County, they are a hard-working side with some very good players but we started well, scored early only to contribute to our own downfall. We didn’t play to our strengths by any stretch of the imagination.”
All three of County’s goals were seen as avoidable, which has become too regular an occurrence, as Williams admitted. “Rarely have teams pass us off the park and outplayed us or scored a magnificent goal. Most of the goals we have conceded have been avoidable. If you take it back far in enough in games there’s a point where something has happened in the lead-up to a goal which has been avoidable.”
While Hibs’ promising start has been based on solid results in the Capital – they remain unbeaten at Easter Road – away form has been less impressive with just one win “on the road,” a record which Williams agreed needs improving. He said: “You strive to get your home games as good as they have been, then you pick up your draws and wins away from home which push you up the table.
“Our home form has been great, away from Easter Road it has been patchy at best.”
The importance of taking points at venues such as tonight’s is underlined by the fact only six points separate St Johnstone in second place from Ross County in tenth with, as Motherwell boss Stuart McCall claimed, every club, possibly with the exception of Dundee who are already in danger of being cast adrift, battling for one of the European spots.
Williams agreed saying: “It’s incredibly tight. The perfect example is St Johnstone. Four or five games ago their manager was under immense pressure, then they win five on the bounce and go flying up the table. If you win a couple back-to-back it really pushes you on.
“I think it is inevitable that Celtic, with the sheer size of their squad and the budgets they work to, will start to pull away but when that happens if you can hang onto their coat tails for as long as possible then you know you are in the right position.”
Tonight will, of course, bring another new experience for Williams following his summer move from Colchester United with Motherwell being the last of the SPL sides which he has still to face and, he insisted, it’s a challenge he’s relishing.
He said: “Motherwell did well last season, played in Europe earlier this season so this will be a good test for us and a good gauge of where we should be.
“Maybe we have been a bit of surprise to some but the manager and players have all said since the very first interviews of this season that this is a different Hibs side to last season. I didn’t see Hibs play last season, I’ve only been told how they played and that it just wasn’t good enough. The club needed a complete turnaround so it shouldn’t be a surprise given the infrastructure here, the manager, the coaching staff and players that we are where we are.”