HIBS manager Alan Stubbs claimed that his team had created enough chances to win three games. As it was they couldn’t convert enough of them to win one.
Hibernian - 0
Falkirk - 1
But he insists that the signs are more positive than the past two results would suggest. Defeat in the derby and another loss, this time at home to Falkirk, and the anxiety which has claimed squatters’ rights at Easter Road over the past couple of seasons was obvious in the stands. On the pitch, there wasn’t the same panic. Frustration, yes, but no panic.
“I think that’s the most frustrating thing about it. Looking back on it now I think we created 18 chances in the game and to come off the pitch not scoring one, there’s disbelief,” said the Hibs manager. “We’ve got to be more ruthless in front of goal. We put ourselves in good positions but unfortunately didn’t take the chances.
“It would be more of a concern if we weren’t creating chances but the fact you create 18 – that’s enough to win three games, never mind one.
“We are dismayed we haven’t won the game. From my point of view I know it’s just a matter of time before it turns. We have to stick with it. I know the fans are frustrated and if I was a fan I would be frustrated, but we have to stick behind the team.”
Despite losing the goal in the 13th minute, the majority of the crowd managed to do that until at least the hour mark, but by then the belief was beginning to waver. They had witnessed a resolute rearguard action, with Falkirk well organised and pressing everything. In goal there was also Jamie MacDonald, a man who had been a thorn in Hibs’ side as a Hearts keeper and looked determined to keep that going.
It was the kind of performance that will give Farid El Alagui nightmares. The bulk of the opportunities fell to the former Falkirk striker but they were wasted – his reactions not quite as sharp as they should have been, his positioning just off. In other instances he was denied by blocking tackles but there were also a few occasions when he was one-on-one with the keeper and he never looked like bettering him, much to the consternation of the home side but to his own manager Peter Houston’s delight
“I spoke to Billy [Brown] recently, who worked with Jamie MacDonald at Hearts, and he told me: ‘You’ve got the best goalkeeper in the league.’ I knew he was right. When he was released by Hearts I was onto him like a shot and it took a wee while. I thought something bigger might have come along for him. That can still come, and I’ve told Jamie that. Sometimes you need to take a step back to go forward, but I’m delighted to have him at Falkirk.”
If that was an asset at one end, at the other Rory Loy gave his capital counterparts a lesson in how to finish. Showing a bit of cheek, awareness or sheer opportunism, he back-heeled the winner into Mark Oxley’s goal.
The ball to the back post was played back into the area by Conor McGrandles but, given the congestion, Loy did the only thing he really could and caught the opposition defence off guard.
“I thought Rory’s performance was absolutely sensational for a lone striker, holding the ball up, feeding his teammates and intelligent running. He is actually quality. He is a better player than I ever imagined. He is such a clever centre-forward, really first-class. A back-heel finish is quality, but that’s Rory all over. He is a really good player and has the experience we need in a young side. Eventually I would like to get a second striker around him, but his work rate is sensational. I can’t praise him and the rest of the boys enough because at times we had to dig deep.”
Houston admitted that Hibs had not performed badly, they had simply lacked the cutting edge. But there were positives in the way they played and particularly in who Stubbs has signed. Both Matthew Kennedy and Scott Allan made their starting debuts and gave the manager and the crowd something to cling to as they look for the turnaround in their fortunes.
“I thought Matty was a real threat, and every time he got the ball it looked like something was going to happen. I thought he was a real positive today,” said Stubbs. “Him and Scott Allan were good. Scotty tired towards the end and we took him off because he was getting cramp but they were real positives.”
There just wasn’t the points or the win.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Forster, Nelson, Booth, Harris (Stanton 79), S Allan (Handling 89), Craig, Kennedy, El Alagui, Heffernan (Cummings 66). Subs not used: Perntreou, Tudur Jones, L Allan, Crane.
Falkirk: MacDonald, Maybury, Vaulks, McCracken, Dick, Sibbald, Durojaiye, Taiwo (Cooper 75), Alston (Leahy 82), McGrandles, Loy (Boulding 90). Subs not used: Bowman, Grant, Shepherd, Rowan.
Referee: C Allan. Attendance: 9,153.