IN ANY league, in any relegation battle, the word you invariably hear is “momentum”. Who’s got it going in the right direction and who in the wrong? Terry Butcher used the word yesterday, but only in relation to the derby his team had just lost. He doesn’t want to think it might apply to Hibernian in the context of the Premiership.
“It was a great header,” he said of Jordon Forster’s disallowed goal, “And it should never have been chalked off. It was never close to being offside. We had the momentum at that stage. In front of our own fans as well. That would have been 1-1 and ‘Here we go’. We felt that if we’d scored one we could have got more and maybe won the game.”
Butcher variously described the miss-call as “horrendous”, “unbelievable” and “par for the course regarding how things are going for us at the moment”. He said he had had words with the officials going up the tunnel at the end of the game but “didn’t care to repeat them”.
While he didn’t think Hibs deserved to lose, he admitted their performance revealed some all-too-familiar shortcomings. The start made by his team, falling behind to an early goal, had been “disastrous”. But they recovered pretty well.
“We had good possession. The passing was good and I think our system worked quite well. But we didn’t test their keeper. We only had one shot on target. Jamie MacDonald hasn’t had one of his most difficult afternoons. We’ve got to be more clinical and ruthless. We do well up to the last third but it’s finding the final ball or the shot. It’s tough to take because the boys have worked hard in the game.”
On the question of momentum in a tumbling-out-of-the-league-sense, Butcher stuck to the facts. Only six points above the play-off places meant there was still much work to do. “Am I a worried man? I’m concerned we’re not scoring goals and shipping them at the other end. We’ve gone from being a difficult team to play against, one that scores from set-plays and grinds out wins, to one that doesn’t score and concedes. That’s very disappointing.”
Butcher revealed Hibs’ peril had exercised minds among his players and he and assistant Maurice Malpas were confident they were displaying the right attitude to pull the club through.
He said he was seeing “honesty” from the team, adding: “I’ve waited a long time for that.
“We’ve had a frank and open discussion, the players and us, and we know we need to pull the finger out and get some points on the board. There are six games left in our season and we need to get as many as we can.
“The teams round about made some ground on us over the weekend and we have to ensure we work hard. I think the boys worked hard today but it’s about having the guts and bravery around the edge of the box to finish off the moves we’ve started.”
Would the players need to be picked up after the latest setback? “No, we’re hurting very much, don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if the boys are flippant about this – they’re not. We’ve got another derby to look forward to. We want to regain some pride. We owe it to our fans.”
Forster for his part said his team-mates recognised their plight. “Our aim was to come here and get three points so we could look away from what and who was below us, but obviously we’re getting dragged into the play-offs fight. We can only change that by winning games.”
Of his goal that wasn’t, the defender said: “During the match I thought it was clearly onside and I’ve looked at it again since. You can see by my reaction. I’m away celebrating. I said some things [to the officials] that I probably shouldn’t have.
“It just summed up our day. I thought we came back into it well after losing the early goal. An equaliser and they back off. But our goal’s disallowed and we get beat. It’s very disappointing.”