Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon hopes to tie up a deal today to bring winger Josh Carson to Easter Road after admitting yesterday that his non-scoring strikers have been ill-served by a lack of ammunition.
Carson has trained all week at East Mains and Fenlon was due to speak with Mick McCarthy, the player’s manager at Ipswich Town, last night. The aim is to have the player signed in time for tomorrow’s home clash with Ross County, against whom Hibs lost three times last season, and scored only two goals.
Fenlon is conscious of the need to create more chances for James Collins and Rowan Vine, who have yet to get off the mark for their new club. Their cause has not been helped by injuries to Alex Harris and Paul Cairney, both of whom are able to make things happen from the flanks. Fenlon wants Carson to step in and start swinging in crosses for the forwards to feed off. “I have known Josh for a while, being a Northern Ireland boy,” he said yesterday. “I know a bit about him and have seen him playing. He has been in for a week training and he has done quite well. But he is obviously an Ipswich player as well so we have to make sure I speak to Mick and see where that one goes.”
Fenlon want to secure Carson, who is 20 years old, until the end of the season, so to avoid the need to have to renegotiate an extension at New Year. “That is if it’s done, there is nothing concrete yet,” he said, cautiously. “That is being totally honest with you. I am due to speak to Mick and see where it is. We have one or two other options going on at the moment.”
Injuries to Harris and Cairney have left Hibs short in the wide areas and it is something that Fenlon believes is partly to blame for the frustration felt by Collins and Vine as they each seek a confidence-building goal.
Collins in particular has struggled to live up to his £200,000 price tag in terms of productivity in front of goal, although Fenlon has been happy with the striker’s all-round play since arriving at Easter Road from Swindon Town. “He’s a goalscorer, he’s scored goals for the last few seasons, and we need to give him a little better service,” said Fenlon. “We need to get more balls into the box for him and give him that opportunity to go and get his first goal.
“He hasn’t scored a goal but his general workrate has been good, his link-up play has been decent and his all-round contribution to the team has been okay. We need to give him a bit more service, that’s probably the key. His game has been fine but we need to give him a little bit more that he can feed off.” Vine has also been unable to break his duck in a Hibs shirt, after five appearances. Indeed, the three goals Hibs have scored so far this season have all come from midfield. It is a rather different scenario to last season, when Hibs were criticised for being too reliant on Leigh Griffiths for goals, with little support coming from the midfield area.
Liam Craig’s double on Saturday earned a much-needed victory over Kilmarnock while Scott Robertson’s equaliser against Dundee United the previous week secured the side’s first point of the season. The onus is now on the strikers to begin doing what they have been brought in to do.
Fenlon is confident that Collins and Vine will click into gear in the very near future. “It’s like everything – centre-half, centre-forward, central midfielders, wide players with full-backs – sometimes they need a little bit of time to gel,” he said. “They’re two good players and two different players in their own right as well.
“If you look at last week when Vine went wide to get a cross in for Liam to score, James might have been on the end of that. He just needs that little break. And that goes for both of them, because I think Rowan will score goals as well, when he gets on a decent run.”
Fenlon revealed that he was annoyed by the number of times Hibs were described as a one-man team last season. For Griffiths to score so many goals, he argued yesterday, his teammates had to carve out chances for him. “He didn’t just pick up in our own box and score goals from there,” he pointed out.
“I was always amazed at that last year, when everybody said Leigh was carrying us, because that was never said about Aberdeen or one or two other clubs who had a goalscorer scoring every week.
“Plus, we weren’t given any credit for getting the chances for Leigh to score. We brought in Liam, and Robbo last season as well, to try and chip in with goals from midfield. We’ve always said we needed to score a few more goals from set-pieces.
“You’re always looking to improve where you can get goals from in the team. The more you have scoring then, obviously, the better it is.”