Craig Fowler reflects on the match at Easter Road as Hibs returned to winning ways in the Ladbrokes Championship
Hibs have real quality right throughout the squad
It’s one thing to say a club have great strength in depth, it’s another to show that on the pitch. Often you’ll see performances suffer as a result of a manager making too many changes. Even if the team, on paper, remains strong, the act of altering it so much can sometimes sub-consciously affect the players, who may not treat the contest with the respect it deserves. This certainly didn’t happen at Easter Road.
A noteworthy contributor was Danny Carmichael. Through a combination of injury, strong competition for places and Hibs often playing without a natural winger in the side, he’s been largely anonymous since joining last summer from Queen of the South. Knowing this was a rare chance to show his stuff, he imposed himself on the match and netted the hosts’ second goal.
Jack Ross made an error with the formation switch
The Alloa boss decided to rearrange his system before the match having observed that Hibs were starting in a 3-5-2 formation. Having the personnel to make the change, Ross figured it’d be to his side’s benefit if they matched up man-for-man. Instead, it was to be their undoing.
For both first half goals, Hibs’ wing backs got in behind the back four and finished off the only clear-cut efforts the hosts would fashion in the period. Each time the Alloa wing backs, Steven Hetherington and Ryan Finnie, were responsible for failing to properly track their men. Given the pair were the last, and only, line of defence on the flanks, the mistakes left the visitors exposed.
After earning a point with a stout defensive performance against Rangers last week, Ross perhaps should have trusted the players to put in a similar display, and not over-thought things.
Liam Henderson should stay at Hibs another season
Celtic are loaded in the midfield area, particularly the attacking central position. Ryan Christie, Scott Allan, Kris Commons, Stefan Johansen, Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong can all operate there, meaning there’s very little chance of Henderson playing a lot next season when he returns to Celtic Park.
If he were to warm the bench, making the occasional sub appearance, that would be a great shame. Yet again he showed what a top talent he is, playing a superb pass for Martin Boyle to open the scoring before a cheeky flick helped Hibs ice the game with a third goal late on.
Henderson is a player with great promise and someone who could be a star for club and country in the future. However, he’ll need regular game time to realise that potential. Hibs can, and will, give him that.
Gunnarsson and Boyle gave Hibs a defensive weak spot
Playing with attacking full back Niklas Gunnarsson at centre back and ex-striker Martin Boyle at wing back is the kind of cavalier approach you can take when you have as much quality in the side as Hibs had compared with their weaker opponents. However, it’s an experiment Stubbs shouldn’t, and likely won’t, repeat against stronger teams. Every one of Alloa’s chances up until about the 55 minute mark came through a softness on the right of their defence.
Hetherington should have equalised when Boyle drifted off at the back post shortly after Hibs opened the scoring, while Gunnarsson was lucky when his slack play allowed Alloa to have a two-on-one, as Marvin Bartley bailed him out by blocking Michael Duffy’s cross.
Both of Hibs’ strikers are dying for a goal
There was a look of frustration from James Keatings when Scott Gallacher’s save from Chris Dagnall’s effort landed kindly at the feet of Boyle instead of him. The striker hasn’t netted in 13 matches now, a run which stretches back to 17 November. His rustiness in front of goal was summed up when he fresh-air swiped a first half cutback, and he needs one to go in off his backside to give him a confidence boost for the run in.
The same can be said for Dagnall. He looked desperate to score his first goal for the club, so much so that it was detrimental to his performance as he often neglected the better option to have a pop at goal. The pair showed themselves capable deputies with their overall performance, but it’s unlikely Anthony Stokes and Jason Cummings will be losing any sleep.
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