Talking point: Hibs too have their selection issues

Much of the build-up to Hibs' fixture with St Johnstone was dominated, somewhat unsurprisingly, by Neil Lennon and the disgraceful scenes at Tynecastle which saw the Northern Irishman hit by a coin thrown from the Main Stand towards the end of the 0-0 draw in the Edinburgh derby on Wednesday.

Saturday, 3rd November 2018, 5:18 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd November 2018, 5:23 pm
Hibs were left frustrated after a flat performance against St Johnstone.
Hibs were left frustrated after a flat performance against St Johnstone.

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Hibs fans were buoyed by their manager vowing not to walk away from Scottish football and responded with a rapturous reception prior to kick-off with fans in the Famous Five stand unveiling a 'One Neil Lennon' banner, while those words reverberated around Easter Road.

What perhaps was overlooked is a possible headache he had, caused by injuries and suspensions. Hibs were missing David Gray and Paul Hanlon to injury, while Flo Kamberi sat out due to the red card picked up against Hearts. All three have been, and are, key individuals.

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There is nobody in the Hibs squad who can replace Kamberi like-for-like, the way he leads the line, making life difficult for the opposition. When Gray is missing there is a drop-off to his replacement, Steven Whittaker, and Hanlon has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in the league since returning from the Championship.

Lennon has built a squad which is flexible and he's brought in individuals who are versatile to fit within that. It can become a problem when players are missing and Lennon can't field his strongest team.

As seen against Celtic, then at Hearts and now against St Johnstone he has tinkered to mixed results.

The back three against Celtic didn't work and Hibs looked much better in a diamond midfield and back four. On paper the line-up against St Johnstone looked good with two, direct widemen supporting Jamie Maclaren, with Stevie Mallan and Emerson Hyndman given licence to get forward and drift with the supporting presence of Marvin Bartley.

However, after only 20 minutes Lennon indicated with his fingers that he wanted the team to switch to a diamond midfield as the team lacked a threat in the final third. No matter what he tried his team were too flat.

It's not something which has happened too often but it was clear that Mark Milligan's composure on the ball in midfield, Gray's determination down the flank, Hanlon stepping out from the backline and Kamberi's all-action approach was missing.

Hibs only have to look at what has happened in the last week or so at rivals Hearts to see how devastating missing key players can be.

For a title challenge to materialse clubs below Celtic have to have incredible luck with injury and suspension. Next up is Aberdeen in a tasty Friday night fixture. No matter the players available it is highly unlikely Hibs will be so flat.