Hibs’ Josh Vela puts focus on goals for column – while conceding that they must be tight at the back
While all the focus has been on the fact Hibs have conceded 11 goals in their past three games, midfielder Josh Vela insists the fact they’ve scored eight of their own shouldn’t be ignored.
The former Bolton Wanderers player readily accepts he and his team-mates need to quickly address the rate at which they’ve conceded in those matches against Rangers, Morton and St Johnstone.
But he believes that sorting out the issue will go a long way to soothing the angst of supporters who made their feelings perfectly clear as they watched Saints skipper Jason Kerr head home that last-minute equaliser on Saturday.
Pointing out that Swiss striker Flo Kamberi had taken his tally to five as he fired Hibs ahead for the second time at the weekend with Scott Allan’s four having already equalled his record for a season, Vela said: “Obviously it’s something we have to look at, cutting out the goals we are losing because we can score at the other end.
“A two-goal cushion would have been perfect and we could have had that in the first half when we played well and created some chances. The second half was a grind, they got back into it then we got in front again but it’s hard to defend a one-goal lead going into added-on time with them putting the ball into our box.
“A last-minute goal is always a killer, a real kick where it hurts. Apparently it was offside which makes it all the harder to take – but you just have to take it on the chin and move on to the next game.”
Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom claimed an anxiety among the fans had fed through to the players but, insisted Vela, it’s only natural that they’ll become edgy in such matches. “They want us to win,” said the 25-year-old. “But you can’t forget there’s another 11 guys playing against us who want to win as well.
“I thought we were comfortable in the first half and had chances to stretch our lead. There was a great response to them equalising, it was a cracking finish from Flo but in the end it felt like a defeat.
“It wasn’t, of course, but everyone was gutted. However, we are only three games into the league, we’ve won one, lost one and drawn one, so it’s not the end of the world.”
The two points lost in those dying seconds against St Johnstone would have taken Hibs into third place in the table.
At this stage of the season it would hardly have counted for much but, insisted Vela, the supporters in particular would have enjoyed such a scenario.
He said: “A win would have put us up there, but there’s a lot of teams on four points with only Celtic and Rangers having got the maximum.
“It feels like a loss, but it wasn’t so let’s not be too downhearted.”
Vela was adamant Heckingbottom’s players will “dust themselves down” and prepare this week for what he described as “another tricky game”, away to Motherwell, like Hibs, Ross County and Aberdeen, currently on four points.
The first international break of the season follows, Hibs returning for a tough run of fixtures in September, away to Kilmarnock in both the league and Betfred Cup, games either side of the first Edinburgh derby, and ending with a visit from Celtic.
Vela said: “We have nine new players, we have to bed together. Hopefully we can get a win before the break and kick on from there. I’d rather carry on playing than having a break at this stage but it will give us more time on the training ground to keep working on things, getting better and allowing us to get to know each other that bit more.
“It’s all a bit new to players like myself who’ve come into Scottish football but I’ve enjoyed it, the game here is really competitive. I’d have liked a couple more wins, but hopefully they will come.”