Marvin Bartley: Hibs need a big second half to the season
Marvin Bartley has insisted that victories are all that count as Hibs look to haul themselves back up the Ladbrokes Premiership after a miserable run of just two wins from 13 matches saw them crash from second to eighth.
Adamant Neil Lennon’s players need “a big second half to the season”, the midfield powerhouse said everyone at Easter Road was frustrated at how things had turned out before the winter break.
After finishing fourth in their first season back in the top flight after a three-year absence, Hibs fans were looking for the team to push on again but instead have been left bitterly disappointed.
Only a 2-0 triumph at home against Celtic lifted spirits in the past couple of months while 2018 ended with a defeat at home to arch-rivals Hearts.
But after spending a week in the sunshine of Dubai to prepare for a return to action which begins with Saturday’s Scottish Cup tie against Elgin City, Bartley said they need to up their game immediately.
“We need to pick up more points than we did in the first half of the campaign and start climbing the table.
“It’s been a frustrating season so far. All the boys want to do better, as eighth place in the league isn’t what we had planned. We have half a season to put things right and we feel we can. The important thing is that we hit the ground running after the break.”
Lennon has been highly critical of his players in recent weeks, demanding that they become more robust having become frustrated at the litany of injuries which had deprived him of key players for lengthy spells. As the rest of the squad flew out to the United Arab Emirates, Lewis Stevenson, Ofir Marciano and Thomas Agyepong were left behind to continue their recovery from injury at East Mains while Martin Boyle underwent surgery on the knee injury he sustained on international duty with Australia.
And Ryan Porteous, who picked up a knee problem in the match against Livingston, travelled but didn’t take part in Friday night’s friendly against local side Al-Wasl.
However, Lennon, who saw Efe Ambrose quit at the beginning of the month as he invoked a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave as a free agent, is hopeful the teenage defender will be ready for the weekend with his fellow centre backs Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon having only recently returned to action.
Bartley was adamant, though, that no-one was looking to make excuses for falling short. The 32-year-old said: “The mentality within the squad, to a man, isn’t like that. I’d put my hat on that. There are no excuses, we just need to be better and we all know that.
“If we all do a little bit more as players then it would make a huge difference. That’s what we’re planning on doing.”
But while Lennon singled out his frontmen for their lack of goals, Bartley insisted the blame didn’t lie solely with them but the entire team for failing to provide the service required, a deficiency the arrival of midfielder Ryan Gauld on loan from Sporting Lisbon will hopefully help address.
Bartley said: “We have to be better in the final third, I think the gaffer has said that quite openly. That’s not anything against the strikers, that’s us as a team.
“We need to provide them with better chances and more chances in games.
“The pressure is on to be better in the final third but what we can’t do is concentrate too much on that.
“We don’t want to then get slack at the back or in midfield.
“But the fact is we’re eighth in the league and it’s not where we want to be as players or where the club wants to be.
“We just need to put the performances on when we’re out on the pitch to climb the league. If we all do a little bit more as players then it would make a huge difference. That’s what we’re planning on doing.”
Lennon, pictured, was also perplexed at how his players could emerge from three games against Rangers and Celtic in the space of 11 days unbeaten only to slip up against the league’s so-called lesser lights but, insisted Bartley, the attitude of the players had been the same regardless of the opposition.
“It is frustrating but sometimes in football you can play two games in exactly the same way and things will fall for you one week and then they won’t the next. Sometimes you need a bit of luck.
“But we have to get the fundamentals and the basics right in order to give ourselves the best possible chance of getting three points from each game we go into.
“That’s the same whether it’s Celtic, Rangers or a team bottom of the table.”
And Bartley’s assessment of what Lennon’s players haven’t been doing right was simple and straightforward.
“Winning,” he said. “We’re not interested in anything else. Performances come second to results now – we want to win. That is the most important thing, however it comes.”