HAVE confidence, and the goals will come. That is the message from Terry Butcher as he takes his Hibernian squad to Dingwall, the scene of his only victory since becoming manager at Easter Road.
Hibs have scored only twice in Butcher’s five games in charge – once in the home draw with Partick Thistle and once in their Scottish Cup tie at Ross County. Given they have also only conceded two goals, it seems clear where they are going right and where they need to make drastic improvements.
With less than a week to go before the transfer window opens, Butcher may well have an external solution to his club’s scoring drought in mind, and the impending return from injury of Paul Heffernan should also help. For the time being, however, he will tell the players available to him that he has faith in them, so they should have faith in themselves.
“To win the game we have got to score, which has been a problem for us,” he accepted. “But if we keep on doing what we did in terms of getting crosses in the box and forcing the other team to defend, then sooner or later we are going to score.
“But we must get better crosses into the box. And there must be more people willing to take a chance and be more proactive in the penalty area and just outside for us to score that goal.
“We had this a few years ago at Caley Thistle, where even with Billy McKay in the team we weren’t putting it in the back of the net. If you keep on doing what you believe in then you will score.
“It might take a streaky deflected goal off the lower part of someone’s anatomy to get on a run of scoring. But, if you continue to put crosses in and continue to believe, it will come.
“It’s indicative that we have only had one penalty this season. So the boys tell me, because every week I ask them who’s on penalties and they reply is: ‘we never get one’.
“We had that at Caley as well. To get penalties you have got to get into the box with the ball, which is the name of the game.
“So we need more of a dominance in our opponents’ penalty areas and be more proactive. And that comes through work and belief and trust, which I am sure we will get. I have confidence they will do just that and it will happen.
“If Hibs were free-scoring I wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure. They haven’t been, and when you look at as to why every week you see goals up and down the country from crosses coming in and people getting on the end of them.
“Even from the crosses that get cleared, people have shots or the ball can take a deflection and go in. But we don’t seem to shoot to even think about getting a deflection at times. But it is about belief and confidence and having a go.”
The mood at the club has been sombre since the deaths on Sunday of under-20s squad member David Paul and Tynecastle teenager Jamie Skinner.
As he looked ahead to the trip north, Butcher said he hoped his players would be reminded by those tragedies that football is only a game: something to be approached in a light-hearted spirit, no matter how earnestly we can all treat it at times.
“It takes something like what happened this week to put things in perspective. It is a game of football, it’s not anything else regardless of what Bill Shankly said, so go and enjoy it.
“With what has happened over the weekend the players really should approach this game as if it is their last because you never know. Just enjoy it and do the best you can do.”
Hibs enjoyed their last visit to Ross County, when a goal from Danny Handling took them to the fifth round of the cup. Derek Adams’ side have lost their subsequent three league matches, and in fact have not won in the Premiership since early October.
“They’ll be hurting,” Butcher added. “They have had a few losses and lost to us in the cup. I think when you’ve been at a ground where you have good memories of winning a cup tie and having to fight hard and scrap to get that victory it’s a pleasant recent memory for the players. So I think from that point of view the journey will be shorter and we’ll be heading there with high hopes. It’s all about remembering the good things and not the bad things.”