Pat Fenlon today revealed his pep talk to a team reeling from losing a goal to arch-rivals Hearts on the stroke of half-time was simple and to the point: “You are the better team, go and win it.”
After bossing the opening 45 minutes at Tynecastle in the fifth and final derby of the season, Fenlon’s players were stunned when Darren Barr took advantage of a mistake by goalkeeper Ben Williams to prod home the opening goal.
Adding to Hibs’ fury was their claim Kevin Thomson had been fouled by Jambo defender Jamie Hamill as he conceded the corner which led to Barr’s strike from Kevin McHattie’s cross.
But a sensational free-kick from top scorer Leigh Griffiths, his 28th goal of the season, and an equally fantastic strike from teenager Ross Caldwell only six seconds from the end of regulation time steered Hibs to their first win in Gorgie for four years and ensured they ended the season unbeaten against Hearts for the first time since 2001.
Today, Fenlon insisted his half-time team talk had been fairly straightforward. Admitting his side were nursing a sense of injustice as they sat in the away dressing-room, he disclosed: “I said to the players ‘you have shown you are a better team than them’.
“We had turned up, played really well, created chances to go into the lead and there was probably a foul for us before the goal but I said: ‘Let’s go and win it’ because you are good enough. “I think the boys showed great character, to concede a goal like that can knock the stuffing out of players.”
Fenlon was delighted all round by his team as they put their bid to finish seventh in the SPL table ahead of their Scottish Cup final against champions Celtic back on track, that position now within their grasp should they win in Wednesday’s rearranged game against Kilmarnock and again when Dundee visit Easter Road on Saturday.
The goal-scorers, naturally, were praised, so too the midfield and a reshaped defence which, without skipper James McPake, Tim Clancy and Ryan McGivern through injury, saw 19-year-old Jordon Forster make an impressive debut.
The Hibs boss said: “We dominated the game in the middle of the park and when you do that you have a great chance to win. The strikes from Leigh and Ross were outstanding but I thought they were a handful for them and caused them all sorts of problems with their movement and technique.
“Jordon was different class as well. He’d played 90 minutes against Celtic’s Under-20s last Tuesday, again on Thursday and then played another 90 odd minutes against two big, powerful players (Michael Ngoo and John Sutton) and was different class.
“He’s had to be patient and went out on loan to gain experience. We told him we’d get him a game before the end of the season – but I didn’t think it would be at Tynecastle.”
And the Irishman paid tribute to the Hibs fans. “I was
delighted for the supporters, they were fantastic,” he said. “They were the only ones you could hear and that drove the players on. We hadn’t won for a while there and now we are
unbeaten against them this season. It was a great day for us all.”