Paul Hanlon details what Hibs will need to do to defeat Hearts
Paul Hanlon has insisted safety first isn’t an option for Hibs as they seek to kick-start a stalling campaign by winning the first Edinburgh derby of the season.
Given the current predicament which both Edinburgh clubs find themselves in – Hearts making the short journey to Easter Road on Sunday rock-bottom of the Premiership table and their city rivals just two points better off – few would be surprised if Sunday’s clash is a cautious, cagey affair.
But Hanlon believes Paul Heckingbottom’s players can’t afford to become risk averse, urging his team-mates to hold their nerve and adopt an adventurous approach.
Hanlon, who will lead Hibs out for what will be his 31st Edinburgh derby, admitted his opinion may appear at odds with his concession that confidence is understandably low within a squad which hasn’t achieved a league win since the opening day of the season.
However, he is firmly of the belief that simply retreating into a collective shell and hoping for the best isn’t the answer, adamant they need to “get the shackles off” and go for the win which would ease the pressure on not only the under-fire Heckingbottom but everyone connected with the club.
Although Hibs slipped to defeat at Kilmarnock – failing to score as they had done in their previous outing away to Motherwell, one which brought a 3-0 loss, Hanlon claimed there had been signs of improvement at Rugby Park although that good work was undone by Liam Millar’s opening goal, Mohamed El Makrini’s second for the Ayrshire club almost an irrelevance with Hibs showing few signs of getting themselves back into the game.
The 29-year-old centre back said: “I didn’t feel we were under pressure against Killie, but one ball over the top and it’s a goal. I thought, first half in particular, we were quite solid, keeping the ball and causing Killie a few problems.
“But we just didn’t keep it going for 90 minutes and once we conceded the first goal everyone seemed deflated. We can’t allow that to happen, we have to be ready to go again as it only takes a second go score a goal.”
Hanlon, though, refuted any suggestion that Heckingbottom’s players had simply accepted defeat the minute they fell behind. He said: “We weren’t standing on the pitch thinking ‘just blow the whistle ref, that’s it done’.
“We were still fighting, but we need to have a bit more belief that we are going to get back in the game, take more risks, try to do something different, run a bit harder, make more unselfish runs that will cause trouble for the opposition’s defence. Eamonn Brophy (Kilmarnock’s striker) didn’t get too many chances, but he was constantly looking to run in behind and was a threat all game. I think we need to do more unselfish running. You are maybe not going to get the ball but it will create chances for others.
“When confidence is low people revert to the safer option, the easier option. We’ve probably been a bit safer with the ball than we should be and not creating enough chances and giving the strikers the opportunities to score.”
Hanlon pinpointed how Hibs failed to get playmaker Scott Allan, the one individual capable of conjuring up a killer pass, into the game at Rugby Park.
He said: “Scotty will try it every time but we need to get him on the ball.
“We struggled to get him any service against Killie or get him any space to create anything. We are struggling to break things down so we need to take more risks, be more adventurous, make runs into areas you don’t really want to be, but it creates space for others and opens defences up.”
Only four goals scored and 13 conceded suggests Hanlon and his fellow defenders are under undue pressure but, insisted the stand-in captain, that’s not something that weighs on his shoulders prior to kick-off.
He said: “I don’t go into games worrying about it. But you can feel when we go a goal down it’s going to be hard because we have not been battering the opposition goals down.”