PAT Fenlon’s tenure as Hibernian manager appears more insecure than ever this morning after his team lost the Edinburgh derby 1-0 at Tynecastle yesterday.
A second-half header by Callum Paterson gave Hearts the victory and, while the home team celebrated knocking three points off the 15-point penalty with which they began the season, the visiting support again booed their team off at the end.
Hibs have still to score a goal after four competitive matches, and they have conceded 11 – nine in their two Europa League games against Malmo, one at home to Motherwell last week, and Paterson’s effort yesterday.
Given Hearts’ small squad and their lack of senior players, yesterday’s match might be interpreted as the surest sign yet that Hibs are not making progress under Fenlon, right.
But the manager insisted his team had deserved to take something from the game, and said that one positive result could change the whole outlook at Easter Road.
“Results is what it needs,” he said. “One result. Footballers live on confidence, and if you can get just one result on the board, that helps breed confidence.
“I’ve no problem with people looking at my position. No problem at all. How do I feel about my position? I’m the manager of the club and I’ll continue to do that.
“We’ve lost two games in the league. I know Europe was very disappointing but, in both league games, there has been very little in them. We didn’t deserve to lose, I think. At the time they scored, I thought we were probably in the ascendancy and had created a couple of chances. So I’m obviously disappointed.
“I don’t think we were under any more expectations today. It’s a derby game, your expectancy is to win it, regardless of the situation. There is no difference to us from when Hearts had a team full of superstars. No, we didn’t feel any expectation, not at all – it’s a game of football. You try to win it. And I don’t think we deserved to lose it.”
Hearts, whose next match is at Partick Thistle on Friday, face being without Ryan Stevenson for months after the experienced midfielder injured a knee during the first half. A scan today is expected to reveal the nature of the injury and the length of absence.
“It looks a bad one – maybe his medial [ligament],” Hearts boss Gary Locke said. “So it looks like I’m going to lose him for a number of weeks, which is a huge blow, because as everybody knows, we’ve not got the biggest of squads and he’s a valuable player. He’s getting a scan tomorrow and I should know a bit more after that. It’s not going to be great news, whatever happens, but I’m hoping it’s not going to be too long.”
Other than that item of bad news, Locke was delighted by the result and by the performance from his team. Midfielder Jason Holt was one of the biggest creative influences in a game which overall was short of positive play. The home defence were confidently marshalled by captain Danny Wilson, and Paterson’s finishing was deadly with the one real chance which came his way.
“It was a huge win,” Locke said. “I think just the situation we’re in – it doesn’t matter who we were playing today, I think getting your first victory and now putting a wee bit of pressure on the teams above us, it was huge. And, obviously, it helps that it’s your biggest rivals as well. The fans have been through an awful lot over the summer and hopefully that will be a result that keeps them happy tonight.
“I think it gives everyone at the club a lift. I wasn’t too disappointed last week when we got beat, and I’m not going to get too carried away today.
“But the sooner you get a win in the situation we’re in, the better. And we’ve done that and we’ve now got something to build on.”
Asked if he felt sympathy for his opposite number, Locke replied: “Yeah, 100 per cent. In terms of effort and commitment his players couldn’t have given him any more.
“I said before the derby, some of the criticism of him was disgraceful. We’re only two games into the season, he’s made a couple of signings, and like any manager will tell you, it takes a bit of time for your new signings to settle in and get used to the way you want to play.”