Hibs v Aberdeen: The game both managers can’t afford to lose
This Saturday’s crunch meeting between Hibs and Aberdeen at Easter Road has now taken on extra significance.
With both teams on a bad run and both managers under severe pressure, it is a game both Lee Johnson and Jim Goodwin cannot afford to lose. There was a similar crunch meeting at the bottom end of the Premier League last weekend when West Ham played Everton. Frank Lampard lost the match and his job. Could the consequences be similar in Leith? Absolutely.
Aberdeen and Hibs fans have been plunged into the depths of despair this week and the knives are out. A 5-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle Park followed by a humiliating Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Darvel – a part-time club five divisions and 56 places below – puts Goodwin’s position in serious peril. He admitted having had no assurances from chairman Dave Cormack, who was in attendance at Recreation Park in Ayrshire on Monday night for the humiliation.
The Northern Irishman has been gracious and defiant, insisting he can turn it around. But it remains to be seen whether he will be given the opportunity. Former Aberdeen captain and manager Willie Miller says Cormack is expecting “serious discussions” between the chairman and manager. “I don't know if there's enough goodwill from the chairman to allow Goodwin to stay," he said.
None of that will make things any easier for Johnson, of course. Two 3-0 defeats to Hearts in a month is unforgivable in the eyes of many fans, regardless of performance levels. Hibs have now been dumped out of both domestic cup competitions at the earliest stage and have won just three of their past 14 matches.
Johnson’s team share with Aberdeen (and Dundee United) the second-worst defensive record in the Premiership. If that area of the pitch was already a problem, it is now an even bigger one with Rocky Bushiri injured and Ryan Porteous on his way out in the coming days. That could leave Paul Hanlon, not thought to be 100 percent fit, and Will Fish as potential centre-back partners – unless someone can be drafted in quickly.
The defensive records of both teams suggests there could be lots of goals in what promises to be a tense, high-stakes contest at Easter Road. Lots of anguish among the fans too. The stakes could not be higher.