PAT Fenlon suffered through a very early morning after the night before on Tuesday as he watched a re-run of Hibernian’s 3-1 defeat to St Johnstone, one that had so distressed the home fans just hours earlier.
Not surprisingly, Fenlon found it difficult to sleep and so found himself watching the game again at home. It did not get any better on a re-viewing and his conclusion was the same as it was immediately after the final whistle on Monday; his players did not work hard enough.
However, he was comforted by the thought that, while the defending was poor at the goals, there was, according to Fenlon, not much about it that needed fixed.
“I’m not one for loads of video stuff but I do look at it and pick out things,” he said, as he reflected on a defeat that leaves Hibs with just a single league victory in ten outings. “The fact I watched it at six in the morning probably didn’t help. You’re looking for things to tweak and put right.
“If you watch it on the day, you think ‘we could have defended better’. But when I watched the first two goals, defensively our shape was good, we had enough players around the ball. It’s just reaction and maybe going into areas that we didn’t need to. Our back four shape wasn’t bad but we got isolated at times.”
Fenlon did not enjoy the experience of having to re-live a defeat that, alarmingly, could have been even more severe. Ben Williams, the Hibs goalkeeper, saved a first-half penalty and St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas felt that his side should have scored five times at least.
“It’s horrible but it’s football,” shrugged Fenlon, who must now lift his players for tomorrow’s clash at St Mirren. “It’s not the first time or the last time I’ll do that [get up at 6am to analyse a game] – and I’m not the only one. It’s a horrible game at times. You’re up there and then you’re down on your boots.
“You have to make sure after Monday and realise that that wasn’t good enough. It’s not happened too many times but we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I think all football managers take their work home. You’re never away from it and it’s the nature of the game. You’re constantly thinking, ‘how can I get an advantage somewhere and do things differently?”
If other results are kind to them then Hibs could go joint second in the league tomorrow, a position they would have occupied had they won on Monday. However, Fenlon is aware that, although they are in second-bottom place, St Mirren are only five points behind Hibs at present, and have found form this year. On Tuesday at training he made it clear to the players that letting the season simply “fizzle out” is not an option.
“We spoke about it on Tuesday and we don’t want to let that happen,” he said. “ I am not one for sitting around and letting the campaign peter out. We are here for a reason as we want to make this club better and we have done that to a point. But what we have done before will not count for anything if we do not kick on.
“I said from the start that we were second bottom last season and we wanted to be in the top six,” he added. “That is where we feel we should be as a club. We don’t have a divine right just because we are Hibs and we have a nice stadium and a fine training ground. You have to earn that right.
“That is part of the disappointment of Monday that we did not earn the right to play.”
One positive to be taken from Monday was a goal for Leigh Griffiths, whose recent spate of off-field troubles coincided with what, for him, represented something of a goal drought. He alone had scored for Hibs in the league this year, with the total now two for 2013.
“Leigh has conjured up a goal out of nothing for us,” said Fenlon. “It is a decent ball from Scott Robertson and he has muscled his way in and battled away and won the ball and stuck it away.
“Once Leigh gets defenders faced-up like that he is difficult to play against because he is so close to the ground and big defenders don’t like that. He produced a fantastic finish and that will help him from a confidence point of view.”