MANY of those who endured this match will have left the ground thinking the same thing; this was exactly the kind of match Hibs might have nicked last term.
Referee: I Brines
It was the kind of game where Leigh Griffiths would have ascended from the mediocrity of the performance and produced a moment of individual brilliance, a set piece, a long-range effort, a quick breakaway, something, anything to give Hibs a goal and the points.
And one goal is probably all that would ever have been needed in this turgid affair, given the paucity of shots at goal.
Regrets, Hibs must have a few but none bigger than the missed opportunity to pay a few quid to sign the Scotland striker while he was still out of favour at Wolves. Instead, while Griffiths was finding the net once again down south, his replacements were unable to find a way through the organised Ross County rearguard.
With no-one able to produce a winner that might have helped paper over the cracks, the capital side trudged off the pitch, following their fourth winless match at home this season, to another cacophony of booing.
While his manager, Pat Fenlon, spread the blame for that, maintaining that the supply to the frontline was not good enough, summer signing James Collins is beginning to feel weighed down by the need to start grabbing goals. “At the moment it’s not going for me or the other lads in front of goal for some reason but we just need to keep working hard, keep plugging away, and hopefully it will all fall into place,” said the player Hibs were willing to part with some cash for when they lured him from Swindon this summer.
“As a striker you are always under pressure to score goals and I’ve got to be honest, it is obviously playing on my mind, but you’ve just got to try to shut it out, keep your head down and keep working hard and that’s what I’m trying to do. That’s five games now, but hopefully after this [international] break that will change. If I can get away it will do me some good and I can have a little think about it and come back fresh next week. As a striker you hope that it comes naturally, but hopefully I will come back next week and work hard on the training pitch and it will all fall into place against St Johnstone.”
He came closest for the Easter Road side with a quality header from a Ryan McGivern cross as the game headed towards half-time but while the Ross County goalkeeper Mark Brown looked defeated, the upright denied him. “I just tried to hit the target and unlucky for me it hit the post because if it was inside the post, I think the ’keeper was beaten,” said Collins, who admits his confidence has been dented in the absence of goals.
“I try not to beat myself up but anyone would be lying if they said it didn’t play on your mind or you didn’t think about it throughout the week, so you just have to keep working hard in training and in your shooting drills and hopefully you can then put it into practice in games.”
The need to create more and score more has been noted by the Hibs hierarchy and they hoped they have aided an improvement in that department. Former Kilmarnock striker Paul Heffernan has been enlisted in the hope that competition for places can either eke something more from Collins, Rowan Vine and young Ross Caldwell or have them replaced by someone who can find the back of the net.
He was listed among the subs, but his late introduction to the action offered no immediate reward and Hibs will now bank on French winger Abdellah Zoubir, who has been tied up on a season-long loan deal from Istres, but was not involved on Saturday, improving the quality and frequency of the service to the strikers.
“I think the last couple of games we have been a lot better. The two wingers, Liam [Craig] and Danny [Handling], have done really well,” said Collins, “but maybe the chances just aren’t coming or aren’t falling in the right places, so we need that bit of luck as well.”
The stalemate marked the sixth meeting between the teams and the Highland side remain unbeaten. Like Hibs, they had fielded an unchanged side; unlike Hibs, who had actually won their previous outing, at Kilmarnock, Ross County had some making up to do following their midweek exit from the Scottish Communities Cup at the hands of Stranraer.
They started the brightest and while Hibs went on to dominate possession, Derek Adams’ men did make better use of the ball and created the higher number of chances. But in a match that failed to inspire or entertain, those weren’t exactly plentiful.
Mihael Kovacevic hit the post with his driven attempt in the opening stages before Rocco Quinn failed to make the most of some clever play by Kevin Luckassen and bundled his close-range effort wide. Graham Carey also had efforts, either side of the interval, but no-one had the cutting edge required to spark any real life into this dull contest. Instead, it proved an afternoon of frustration for all concerned, but it was again the home fans who vented that frustration most vociferously.