PAT Fenlon was offered something of an out in the after-match press conference. Scrambling about for positives from a game that delivered few, at least his men had managed a clean sheet.
It was their first of the season but, give the Hibs gaffer his due, like the fans who booed the team off the pitch yet again, that fact provided him with little solace.
“We had a lot of possession but we have got to be a bit more precise and a bit quicker,” said the Easter Road manager. “We seem to be able to do that away from home but we need to be more precise when we get into good areas. We only created one real chance with James’ [Collins] header in the first half but there was no real rhythm to the game.”
No real rhythm, no real spark, no real creativity, no real entertainment. When the message came over the public address system that the stadium was out of event mode, it was a surprise to most that it had even been classed as in event mode. This was a match where the 0-0 scoreline hints at just how turgid matters were was but doesn’t really come close.
Ross County manager Derek Adam felt that was harsh but he was one in a tiny minority of those in the ground who felt that way. He felt his men deserved some credit for earning a point, especially after their lengthy midweek trip to Stranraer. They did have the majority of chances, with Mihael Kovacevic, Rocco Quinn and Graham Carey coming close in the first half and wide man Carey carving out another as his quick feet saw him beat three Hibs players in a crowded box before stabbing his shot fractionally wide.
The home side did monopolise the possession, though. They just lacked the incisive play capable of turning it into something tangible.
The closest they came was on the stroke of half-time when Ryan McGivern delivered a cross in from the left which Collins’ headed off the post with Mark Brown beaten. “It was a great ball in and a great header and we probably haven’t got enough of those balls in to him, to be honest,” said his manager. “But you can see what he can do when we get decent ball into him. He just has to keep coming out and working hard because his record for scoring goals is good.”
He is still to get off the mark since his switch from Swindon and as he lashed other efforts from deep, the frustration was evident in his play. But he wasn’t the only one who felt that way yesterday.
Five times these clubs had squared up, with the Highland side winning four and unbeaten in the other. But after a sticky start to this campaign there was a modicum of hope in the Hibs ranks. After four points from their last two games, the bawling for Fenlon’s head had become more muted and with the signing of striker Paul Heffernan and French winger Abdellah Zoubir, there was cause to believe that they could deliver a greater cutting edge.
It certainly proved that the board remain behind Fenlon, putting their money where their mouth is in the hope that he can turn things around.
But with Zoubir omitted from the squad for yesterday’s match, awaiting international clearance, and the former Kilmarnock striker only listed as a substitute, that cutting edge still proved hard to come by.
The news that additions have been enlisted should have been enough to focus minds in the home attack but Collins’ goal drought continued while there was a glaring lack of understanding between him and strike partner and fellow summer signing Rowan Vine. Out wide, both Danny Handling and Liam Craig seemed more interested in protecting their place in future starting line-ups but they could not conjure up the kind of final delivery which left Ross County helpless and could lift this game from the depths of mediocrity. Turgid in open play and limited in terms of goalmouth action, it wasn’t only Hibs to blame for that. Ross County deserved every plaudit they received last season but they have struggled to impress in the early part of this campaign. They have lost all three of their away fixtures this season, including the midweek trip to Stranraer in the League Cup and allowed Hibs to dominate territorially.
“If you look at our finances and the team we put together, I think you are being a bit harsh,” said Adams. “We had the better opportunities and we should have won the match. We had three gilt-edged opportunities and for a team like Ross County to come to a team like Hibernian and come away with a point is very good and we probably should have won the match over the 90 minutes.
“Last week we won 3-0 against St Mirren and this week we drew 0-0 so that’s two clean sheets. It’s been a difficult week for us but we have come through it very well with four points.”
At least the clean sheet offered someone some sense of consolation.