Hibs’ patience pays off - squad had spoken about winning it in last five minutes
Patience finally paid off for Hibs, everyone breathing a sigh of relief as a moment of magic from playmaker Scott Allan got their new Premiership season up and running as his late strike clinched all three points.
A win over St Mirren, who just managed to hold on to their place in the top flight a few months ago, had been anticipated by fans – the question for most of them being simply the margin of victory.
It was understandable. Saints had endured a torrid Betfred Cup campaign, managing just one win in a group containing Dunfermline, Edinburgh City, East Kilbride and Albion Rovers, leaving new boss Jim Goodwin frantically trying to strengthen his squad with four of those who faced Hibs having only arrived in Paisley five days earlier.
As the minutes ticked by and a no-scoring draw looked increasingly likely, Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom and his players held their nerve, resisting the temptation to “go long” and they were rewarded as Allan’s quick feet created the space needed to whip a low shot beyond Saints goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky.
Having earlier seen an Allan shot come back off the inside of the post and a Joe Newell header suffer a similar fate – Flo Kamberi knocking home the rebound only to have the offside flag, wrongly, raised against him – Heckingbottom admitted it had been looking very much like “one of those days”.
But, he revealed: “We had spoken about winning in the last five minutes. St Mirren are a Premiership side, they’ve got a new manager, made signings so we knew they would be organised and if they wanted to sit in and hit on the counter they’d be tough opposition.
“We prepared for that. We wanted to be patient and that’s what we did. We didn’t just go long, we continued passing and we got the goal.”
In the end it was won by that little piece of magic from Allan, the flash of genius which made him such a fans’ favourite during his previous two spells with the club.
Steven Whittaker, though, insisted there was much more than that to Allan’s game, like every other player expected to do the “dirty” side of things.
“Scott showed his qualities all day,” said the veteran defender. “He had a chance to score earlier when his effort came back off the post and we thought it was going in.
“We know if we get him on the ball then we all know there will be goal-scoring chances created for us. He is a great player to have in the team. Sometimes I need to shout at him right enough to do his work off the ball. But he is working hard for the team.
“His assets are going forward but he is willing to put the work in as well. Most attacking players are more interested in creating rather than defending and I understand that.
“The manager has us defending as a unit, so it’s important everyone does their own roles and Scott understands that. He has been brought here to come in and create for us and chip in with a few goals and he has done that. He has got off to a great start on the league and long may that continue.”
Whittaker admitted that as pleasing it was to get the win, it was obvious improvements need to be made, although he’s certain that will be the case as Heckingbottom’s summer signings – five of whom had their first taste of Premiership action – bed in.
He said: “There are positives and negatives to take from Saturday. We can be better at certain things. It is difficult when a team comes here and sits in like St Mirren did. They wanted to hit us on the counter and at times they looked dangerous.
“We still managed to create a number of chances and on another day, if we had an earlier goal, their plan has to change and it goes in our favour. The longer the game went on it gets harder. The passes start to slow down, we were running out of ideas, but we have someone like Scott to bring us some magic and so we win the game.
“The guys who have come in have been great and we are working for each other. The gaffer is very detailed how he wants us to be on and off the ball. We have our roles we have to learn so hopefully we can hit the ground running.
“There were maybe a few nerves from the new boys as they all want to impress straight away and I understand that. Hopefully that is the first game out of the way and they settle in. The longer the game goes, people get frustrated, but at the end of the day you set out for the three points and we have managed to do that.
“We will pick the bones out of it later in the week and see what we can improve on, as well as what we did well.”