Hibs keeper Ben Williams rues poor displays
Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams has admitted he and his team-mates need to find a greater degree of consistency if they are to meet their ambitions for this season.
A solid string of results at Easter Road, where they once boasted the best home record in the SPL, helped Pat Fenlon’s side propel themselves up the table, surprising everyone as they jumped from the second bottom place they occupied at the end of last season to second top this time round.
Sunday’s opponents Aberdeen, however, brought that proud run to an end in late November and since then Hibs’ record at home has become more modest. Only one victory, albeit a notable triumph over champions and SPL leaders Celtic, in their last four league games at Easter Road has seen Fenlon’s men slip to fourth from the second spot they once called their own.
Contriving to surrender a two-goal lead against Motherwell, a defeat by lowly Ross County on Boxing Day and, now, a draw with basement outfit Dundee, has resulted in Hibs falling four points behind Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the Steelmen in the bid to finish as runners-up.
It is, of course, a far from irretrievable situation with 15 matches remaining and Hibs having already equalled last season’s points tally with the 33 they’ve earned thus far. Williams conceded, however, that they need to pick up their form, particularly at Easter Road, and accepts that, on paper at least, games such as against Dundee should be won even if Barry Smith’s team produced a shock 3-1 win over them at Dens Park the week before the Dons brought that unbeaten home run to a halt. Pointing to how Hibs dumped Celtic and then earned a battling point against Hearts at Tynecastle immediately before the winter break, the 30-year-old said: “Saturday’s was maybe a fair result for how badly we started the game, but before it we should be looking to win, particularly at home.
“It’s the points dropped at home which is the frustrating thing because if you win most of your home games you get a solid platform where you can go away, maybe try different things, nick a point, nick a win as your away matches are not so vital.
“But now in the position we are in, we are having to go away from home and get results. Games like Saturday’s highlight the inconsistency where we lose to Ross County, beat Celtic, draw with Hearts away and then draw again against the bottom club.
“That’s the most frustrating thing for a manager. As a player, it is easy to raise your game against teams like Celtic and for the local derbies, that’s a given. But it’s against the teams you are expected to beat or the sides in and around you when you really need to raise your game and get the results you need to climb up the table and that’s probably where we have let ourselves down.”
The points dropped in recent weeks have made all the difference between Hibs and Inverness and Motherwell, a fact which Williams readily accepts. He said: “Games against the likes of Celtic are the ones people are not expecting you to win or keep clean sheets in.
“Those should be your bonus points on top of the points you have earned from hard work and graft from the teams around you, but we have not been able to do that.
“It’s something we need to rectify in the second half of the season to push us up to the part of the league where we want to be finishing.”
Like his manager, former Colchester United keeper Williams admitted he was at a loss in trying to explain the drop in standard shown by Hibs against Dundee following the highs of their previous two matches.
He insists the winter break was no excuse and that no-one should have been surprised that the Dens Park outfit went on the offensive rather than, as many had predicted, simply getting bodies behind the ball in a bid to frustrate their hosts.
Tayside striker John Baird stunned Easter Road by claiming an early opening goal and, while Leigh Griffiths hauled Hibs level with his 15th goal of the season, Williams was forced into important saves both before the equaliser and afterwards as Fenlon’s side struggled to get anywhere near the levels they have set themselves at times this season.
The goalkeeper said: “We would much have preferred to have controlled the game from the start but we didn’t start at all well. We were sloppy, slow and lethargic. We knew that. The manager pointed out at half-time we needed to play a lot quicker, to get the ball wide quicker and to play to our strengths.
“We felt we did a lot better in the second half but we just couldn’t break them down to get that second goal.
“There are excuses you could look for; we’ve had a break and we probably had some momentum going before it while, because of the snow, we’ve had our training interrupted.
“But at the end of the day, everyone is in the same position, everyone has had a break and everyone should really be fresh, at the races and raring to go.
“Dundee played well and had a few chances but sometimes when teams are written off – and I suppose a lot of people have written them off – they have nothing to lose in a way. They can throw men forward and if they get a goal then they have something to hold onto for the rest of the game.
“They can sit back and defend and I thought Dundee did that well. Overall, though, it was a poor performance from us.”
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