Hibs’ lack of cutting edge at Stirling is rued by all concerned
New season and a new-look team, but the same old problems persist for Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom – how to turn chances created into goals.
It was a dilemma which not only troubled the head coach in the latter part of last season, but his predecessor Neil Lennon and one which prevented the Easter Road side opening their Betfred Cup campaign with a win.
Ultimately, it could be argued, they enjoyed a “victory” of sorts, salvaging a bonus point thanks to the penalty shoot-out which followed this 1-1 draw, Stirling Albion’s David Wilson hammering home a stunning strike to cancel out Scott Allan’s first-half spot-kick.
But, as the League Two outfit demonstrated, any team which isn’t ruthless enough in front of the opposition’s goal is always liable to be vulnerable no matter how much superiority they enjoy both in terms of possession and territory.
Of course, it is far too early to start worrying, Hibs having scored nine goals in their three warm-up matches although, again, they could easily have claimed a few more had they been more clinical.
It will take time for Heckingbottom’s summer recruits to fully bed themselves in, these four League Cup games still very much part of his pre-season planning. The head coach intimated that in this match and those to come against Alloa Athletic, Arbroath and Elgin City that he’ll be using different players in each as he looks to bring them all up to speed ahead of the first Premiership fixture with St Mirren.
Finding that balance while producing the required results is a difficult task as Paul Hanlon who, along with Stevie Mallan and Daryl Horgan, was one of only three players in the starting line-up who faced Aberdeen in the final match of last season, admitted.
Hanlon said: “We left good players out today. It’s a case of a juggling act for the manager. It’s tough to get everyone the minutes they require, but we need to be better than we were here.
“It’s not just about fitness. There are new boys bedding in and the manager is trying to suss out his best team. He’s trying to implement his style as much as he can. We did a lot of work last season, but there has been a big turnover of players. We have to do it all again.
“Hopefully by the time the first league games come, we’ll be in full swing and ready to go.”
However, with new owner Ron Gordon watching his side for the first time, Hanlon admitted he and his team-mates had paid the price for not building on that Allan goal.
“It was a tough afternoon,” said the defender. “We created enough chances, but we’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net. As long as it’s 1-0, it gives them a wee chance and to be fair to the boy (Wilson) he scored a good goal to put them back in the game.
“We had enough pressure. We didn’t create enough from open play, but from set-pieces we were a threat. We could have scored a few goals. When we missed chances, they got a bit of belief and went for it when they scored.
“It’s difficult, coming to places like this, when boys are digging in against you and trying not to give you an inch. It’s a massive game for the Stirling Albion boys. They played well and scored a great goal.
“But we have to do better in the final third. If we had scored the second goal we would have cruised to victory, but it wasn’t to be.”
Heckingbottom shared that frustration, saying: “I thought it would be tough. We are going to have to earn every point we get.
“Every game away from home in the cup is tough. It shouldn’t have been difficult because we created chances we should be putting away.
“We scored goals in our three build-up matches, but we also missed a hell of a lot of chances.
“We’re pleased we’re creating them, but we have to be clinical.
“If you miss chances, you’ll find it hard and you have to compete in the ugly side of the game.”