TWO late goals cost Hibernian two points against Dundee United yesterday, but Terry Butcher was still keen to accentuate the positive at the end of a festive programme in which his team has taken ten points from four games.
While there was an element of tiredness about Hibs’ performance in the latter stages of the 2-2 draw, the manager ascribed that to the effort they put into the Edinburgh derby three days earlier.
“I thought we were good for the three points,” Butcher said. “For 75 minutes we did very well. United were not in it at all, the crowd and players were getting frustrated, so we thought it was great for us.
“I just think the last 15 minutes told on my players – tiredness as well, because they put so much effort into the Edinburgh derby. United had 24 hours’ extra rest and when you win a derby it’s a big thing mentally as well as physically.
“So we tried to get over the game as quickly as possible and I thought we did just that. But you have to give United full credit as they had nothing to lose and just bombed it forward.”
Hibs’ defensive record has improved dramatically under Butcher, and this was the first game in his reign in which they have conceded more than one goal. “It was unlike us to concede the two goals in the manner we did and to not deal with crosses and just punts up the park,” he continued. “That’s disappointing, but we’ll learn from it.
“The dressing room is still intact, the doors are still fine, there was no ranting and raving, because these boys are giving me absolutely everything they can. Perhaps we should have won, but to come to a top-six team and get a point is still progress.”
United’s manager Jackie McNamara was pleased by the way his team fought back, especially as a run of three defeats might have dented their confidence. But he argued that the match could have been radically different had Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams been sent off for grabbing hold of Gary Mackay-Steven when the game was still scoreless. Instead, the United player was ruled offside, and no action was taken against Williams.
“The one decision I was disappointed with was the offside against Gary Mackay-Steven with the new rules,” McNamara said. “I think the goalkeeper could have walked at that point. He’s not touched the ball. The goalkeeper has went to kick the ball and he’s made contact, then obviously he’s pulled down Mackay-Steven. So it’s one to talk about.
“I was delighted with the way we came back in the match. Obviously I was fearing the worst when they got the penalty and went 2-0 up, without really doing anything against us. That was the frustrating thing.
“The first goal was self-inflicted. I think the penalty was very soft. But I was delighted with the response from that.”
David Goodwillie, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, threw his jersey into the crowd at the end of a match that was his last at Tannadice before he is due to return to Lancashire. But McNamara is not yet resigned to losing the striker.
“We just need to wait and see. His loan deal expires next week, so we’ll wait and see what happens this week,” he said. “We are a bit light up there, so it’s something we need to look at. If we can’t get him we might need to get something else.”