Fans’ applause after losing two-goal lead told Hanlon things are improving at Hibs
MATCHES that would have been lost last season are now being drawn. Those that would have ended as draws are now being won. Fans who had become accustomed to booing at the end of games at are now staying to applaud.
The mood is far brighter at Easter Road, both on and off the pitch, compared to last season. And Hibernian defender Paul Hanlon believes that, just as the team became trapped in a vicious circle last season – with nervous performances provoking abuse from the stands, which in turn merely made the players more nervous – so now they and their supporters have embarked together on something far more positive.
“There was real nervousness about playing at Easter Road in front of the Hibs supporters,” said Hanlon, whose team are at home to Dundee this afternoon. “We wanted to produce good results for the fans, but people were panicking and just worrying instead of getting on with playing good football.
“There is a mindset about the club now where we go into matches thinking we can win, rather than hoping to win that maybe we had in the past. The supporters want to see good football and decent results and we are on the pitch to do that for them and we weren’t doing that last season. We want to win the fans back in numbers and we can only do that by winning games.
“The biggest difference for me this season is that the supporters clapped us off the pitch at the end of the Inverness game [a 2-2 draw] and it was great to hear that. It was disappointing to lose a two-goal lead, but the supporters acknowledged the hard work we put in.
“Apart from our opening game against Dundee United, we have competed in all of our games and have been right there in them. We have had a chance of taking points from every game. We are staying in games longer. Last season we would lose the first goal and then enjoy a period of pressure but then concede a second and that was game over.”
While results have improved, attendances at Easter Road have been slow to pick up. But, as a Hibs supporter himself, Hanlon has accepted that, after years of underachievement, fans could take some time to be convinced that the tide really has turned.
“The attendances are slightly disappointing, but the players know there is potential here to be a huge club with massive crowds,” he said, “It just goes to show how bad the last couple of seasons really have been, as we have picked up but the fans are still not coming through the doors in the numbers that we would like.
“But that is up to the players to put right. We need to get wins on the park and we will not win them back overnight. I can understand the fans staying away, because we’ve been poor in the last couple of seasons, but hopefully we’re getting it right just now. We’re unbeaten at home and if we can keep that going, then I am sure more supporters will come back. If Hibs can consistently get results then the fans will turn up.”
Those fans who turn up this afternoon could see Hibs surpass their home record in the league last season, when they won only twice. With a full squad for Pat Fenlon to choose from they are favourites to add to their previous wins against St Johnstone and Kilmarnock by beating Dundee, who include former Hibs player Colin Nish in their ranks. Whether the home fans will welcome the striker back or indulge in a spot of nostalgia by booing him remains to be seen.
Dundee manager Barry Smith, meanwhile, believes his players will be motivated by their determination to improve on their derby defeat by St Johnstone when they take on Hibernian.
Dundee remain rooted to the bottom of the SPL after going down 3-1 to St Johnstone at Dens Park last weekend, a defeat which left them four points behind city rivals Dundee United. The SPL new boys now head for the capital to take on Pat Fenlon’s men looking for only their second league win of the new campaign – the other was across Edinburgh against Hearts. And Smith is convinced they will have a big point to prove.
The Dundee manager said: “They will be motivated for sure for the Hibs game. The boys weren’t happy with the performance against St Johnstone and I would be expecting a massive reaction for Saturday. No-one likes getting beat, but it makes it worse when there’s such a below-par display which we’re all aware of. We’ve got a good dressing room of honest professionals and they know they fell way short of our standards against St Johnstone. The training has been good this week so I’d expect them to be right at it come kick-off at Easter Road.”
Smith admits their selection problems in defence have not helped on their return to the top flight but is refusing to make excuses.
He said: “We’ve not had a settled back four. That has been a big factor. When I come to think of it, we’ve not played the same back four twice and it doesn’t make it easy when you’re coming up against teams who do have continuity. But I still think it’s about the team and it’s not an excuse by any means.
“I’m not just having a go at defenders. It’s the team as a whole who can do better and we’re confident that can be the case. I’ve got a good dressing room. I’ve always known that, so it’s about getting the reaction which will hopefully see us getting a positive result at Hibs.”
Smith is full of praise for Fenlon’s side, who are unbeaten at home. He said: “They’ve been doing pretty well of late. Their defeat by Aberdeen was their first in seven games which tells you something. We know we’ll have to be at our best to get a win because they’re a decent side who’ve got some confidence about them.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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