Adam Jackson: Hibs can still win European place

Viewing it as a good point gained rather than two dropped, Hibernian’s Adam Jackson still believes that the Leith side can end the season challenging the likes of Motherwell and Aberdeen for a European slot.
Adam Jackson, third left, walks off with teammates Lewis Stevenson and Tom James after drawing 0-0 against Motherwell.Adam Jackson, third left, walks off with teammates Lewis Stevenson and Tom James after drawing 0-0 against Motherwell.
Adam Jackson, third left, walks off with teammates Lewis Stevenson and Tom James after drawing 0-0 against Motherwell.

There is significant ground to be made up, though, and Stephen Robinson’s men will not make it easy, with this scoreline flattering to deceive.

It suggests that there was nothing between the teams. The truth is that Motherwell dominated proceedings, laid siege at times and, had they had a more clinical edge, they would have won this one. But Hibs held firm.

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Hibs can thank goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, inset, for his vital intervention when Christy Mazinga looked the most likely to make the breakthrough after he came on as a second half substitute.

But, for all the home side’s superiority, their lack of goals meant they were never able to kill off the niggling notion that Hibs could hit them on the break and escape back along the M8 with more than a point.

Indeed, they had served warning when Florian Kamberi was denied by the post in the second half.

But Motherwell had a resolute rearguard and a commanding midfield who took control. They just couldn’t add a cutting edge into the mix.

The Motherwell boss was fairly stoic, happy with the performance and content to get a point and keep third place challengers Aberdeen at arm’s length. And although the Leith side had travelled with every intention of winning the encounter, and sent out an attacking line-up, they too ended up satisfied with the draw against one of the form sides in the country. There was also the clean sheet to be grateful for.

“Ofir made a great save and it took a deflection off me which made it even better as it was heading for the top corner,” said centre-back Jackson of Hibs’ Israeli keeper. “We try not to allow shots to get in but it makes you feel so much more confident when you know you’ve got a keeper who can pull off saves like that.

“It means you can go and play aggressively and play high up. But [when it comes to the Euro 2020 play-offs] Scotland will be hoping he doesn’t pull off many of those saves at Hampden in March!”

While Motherwell are still four points clear of fourth-placed Aberdeen, the Easter Road side lost ground on fifth-placed Livingston but, given the opposition, Jackson refused to dismiss the afternoon as a disappointment.

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“When you go to a team above you in the league, then it has to be viewed as a good point. We know we could have played better but when you’re not at your best performance-wise, it’s important not to lose.

“We kept a good shape and, apart from one good chance at the end, we limited them to shots outside the box. We were organised and the midfield two were brilliant at screening and showing them outside so it was great to get the clean sheet.”

Looking ahead, not just to tomorrow’s Scottish Cup replay against Dundee United, but to the remainder of the league campaign, he said they had to be buoyed by that.

“We know we can be better going forward. If we work on that and get that right then we’ll be much more of an attacking threat. We’ve got players who can come off the bench and make a difference so we’ve got options up front.

“It was such a close scoreline and if we’d scored then it would have changed everything. If we get the balance right between attack and defence, we can definitely get the points to push up the table.

“Is third or fourth place achievable? Of course it is. We’ve got the ability to win games like Saturday.”