AFTER losing their lead at the top of the SPL thanks to a comprehensive 3-1 defeat by Dundee at Dens Park on Saturday, Hibs face a “dose of reality”, according to experienced defender Alan Maybury.
The Republic of Ireland international said: “That was our worst performance of the season, there’s no doubt about it. As a result we were well beaten.
“We lost sloppy goals and didn’t carry enough of a cutting edge. We huffed and puffed, with too much sloppy passing and slack play.
“There will be plenty of people who will say that’s the end of it but we are determined that it’s not. We are realistic, we know where we are at, so it’s back to reality and back to hard work and getting back to where we feel we want to be.”
On Saturday, Maybury was caught out when lifelong Hibs fan Colin Nish got beyond the defence to chase a long ball. The former Hearts player was adjudged by referee Brian Colvin to have pulled down former Hibee Nish, and it was Kevin McBride – another former Easter Road denizen – who scored from the spot with aplomb.
“I felt it wasn’t a penalty,” said Maybury. “He goes down in front of me, I don’t feel there’s enough contact for it but the referee gives it so there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Maybury accepted that the “pats on the back” after Hibs’ good run might have had the players believing their publicity. “It’s human nature,” he said. “We’ve been doing well, we’ve worked hard and it’s been a big turnaround here.”
Dundee’s spell of two goals in seven minutes just after half-time did the damage, as Maybury admitted. “We shot ourselves in the foot at the start of the second half,” he said. “We were well beaten and we just have to accept it.
“We’ll be back in on Monday and, with a good week’s training, we’ll look to sort it out next week.”
Played in a great atmosphere in front of 6,742 fans – about a third of them wearing green – this was a highly entertaining football match full of good play and the occasional error that only added to the enjoyment.
As Maybury indicated, it was a very bad day at the office for a disjointed, often listless, lacklustre and only occasionally threatening Hibs. Rab Douglas in the Dundee goal did not have to save a direct shot on target throughout the first half.
Hibs improved late in the second half, but their manager Pat Fenlon’s comment that Dundee were “exceptional” was more pertinent. He had predicted that Dundee would give his team a hard time with their “solidity” and so it proved.
For Kyle Benedictus and Declan Gallagher in the centre of defence, aided and abetted by Gary Irvine and the excellent Matt Lockwood – his cross balls and free kicks were a boost in attack, too – Dundee were much tighter in defence than their Hibernian counterparts. That was the main difference between the two teams, although Dundee’s manager Barry Smith preferred to dwell on his side’s “high energy levels” and no one could argue much with that.
Paul Hanlon and Ryan McGivern struggled to cope with Nish – how much Hibs are missing captain James McPake in central defence – while Steven Milne gave the whole back four a tough time, and the sponsors’ man of the match could have had three or four goals instead of just the one scrambled effort that came less than two minutes into the second half.
Indeed he might have scored as early as the 11th minute when Hanlon and goalkeeper Ben Williams got in a fankle, allowing Milne to poke the ball through and run in on an open goal only for the ball to beat him to the byline.
Despite his inexperience, Benedictus’ goal after 21 minutes was not a fluke – the big defender meant his shot on the turn to find Williams’ top corner and it did so in spectacular fashion. Barry Smith quipped that his colleagues had been saying that Benedictus “meant to cross” but the evidence of the player and the television replay was to the contrary – it was a magnificent goal.
So, too, was Leigh Griffiths’ wonderful left-footed strike from fully 25 yards for a late consolation effort in the final minute of ordinary time. It meant that new internationalist Griffiths has scored in six successive matches, and that’s the sort of form which attracts attention from managers with big budgets.
Griffiths never stopped trying the whole match, and it was noticeable that many Dundee fans applauded their ex-player’s brilliant goal, just as they had showed their appreciation of a comedy tangle between Griffiths and goalkeeper Rab Douglas earlier in the second half.
That was a light-hearted moment in a serious match but, if Hibs do not bounce back against Aberdeen on Saturday, their fans will not be in the mood for laughing.