After yet another ground-out win for the Hibees, Mark Atkinson looks at five key points from the match.
Dylan McGeouch is far too good for the Championship
It was a pleasure, yet again, to watch Dylan McGeouch in action. The diminutive midfielder was again head-and-shoulders above anybody else on the pitch. He’s always available for the ball and very rarely loses it, continually prompting attacks and finding a Hibs counterpart in space. Without the ball, he’s intelligent enough to close down space and press opposition players. The three other main Hibs midfielders – Fraser Fyvie, John McGinn and Liam Henderson – all played their part too, but McGeouch is the vital cog in Hibs’ engine room. It’s a real surprise that Hibs didn’t lose out to clubs in the Premiership or down south when he became available in the summer, because he’s streets ahead of anybody else in the Championship.
On second viewing, Niklas Gunnarsson looks useful
It’s always too early to judge a player on his debut, but Norwegian Niklas Gunnarsson failed to impress when he made his debut at Stark’s Park in Hibs’ 2-0 Scottish Cup win over Raith in early January. He was much more assured in Greenock, however. He ably replaced David Gray – rested ahead of Sunday’s derby – at right back, driving forward at every opportunity and defending strongly. He was very rarely beaten by Bobby Barr on the wing and it was actually Gunnarsson who penned his Morton foe back, winning a fair few corners and offering Hibs width on the right. He barely missed a tackle either and appeared much more at home than he did a few weeks ago, which is only natural considering he’s had time to get fit and acclimatise to Scotland. It’s unlikely he’ll become Hibs’ first-choice right back, but the Valerenga loanee offered enough to assuage any fears that Hibs lack cover should Gray get injured.
Another 1-0 win for Hibs
The win at Morton was Hibs’ SEVENTH 1-0 victory in the league this season. For many years Hibs have been labelled as a side unable to churn out results when the going gets tough, but that’s exactly what they’ve been doing this season. In a title race, it’s imperative – especially away from home – to win at all costs, and substance is very much more important than style. Hibs were in control for most of last night’s match and could’ve won by more, but taking the points back to Edinburgh was mission accomplished as far as head coach Alan Stubbs was concerned, considering Saturday’s draining League Cup semi-final win. Last season, the Easter Road side dropped too many points when 1-0 wins would’ve more than sufficed, so it’s good to see them winning when not at their best. As the well-worn cliché goes, it’s the sign of champions after all.
A frustrating evening for James Keatings
Last night was a good chance for James Keatings to really show Stubbs what he can do. The former Hearts man will have been desperate to show his boss that he’s deserving of a starting place at his old stomping ground on Sunday. Did he do enough? Probably not. He was lively enough and always looking for possession, but too often the ball didn’t stick or the final product was lacking. His one big chance – a close-range header on the stroke of half-time – was too close to Derek Gaston and allowed him to make a save. Keatings clearly is a good player – he’s shown us that already this season – but it’s just not coming off for him right now. Jason Cummings, Anthony Stokes and Chris Dagnall are probably in better form right now, and it’s fair to assume Keatings is probably going to be a substitute against his former employers.
The standard of refereeing in the Championship is poor
Nobody likes slagging off referees, but it’s hard to ignore John McKendrick’s performance last night. Both sets of fans were irked by the official as he made a series of bemusing and incorrect calls. It was probably one of the worst officiating displays this season in a Hibs game. Morton players continually got away with clear fouls on McGeouch, Henderson and Fyvie, while the hosts can feel aggrieved that in the latter period of the match, McKendrick missed some infringements in promising positions. It wasn’t just at Cappielow last night where gripes were made about the referee. Euan Anderson got it in the neck from Ray McKinnon for chopping off a Raith goal against Rangers, while even in the Premiership, Barry Cook’s card-happy performance didn’t go down well with either Parick or Motherwell. It’s a sad fact that the further down the leagues you go, officialdom becomes less impressive, but even still, McKendrick’s performance made Willie Collum and, ahem, Craig Thomson look like Pierluigi Collina.
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