THIS was a football match which only a new manager could truly enjoy. If, several years from now, Terry Butcher still has cause to look back on 23 November, 2013, fondly, it will mean it was the starting point for a successful tenure at the helm of Hibernian.
For most of us who witnessed this lunchtime stalemate in Paisley, including the 1,190 Hibs fans who travelled west to hail their new chief, it was a 90 minutes which will very quickly be erased from the memory.
For Butcher, simply arresting the run of four successive defeats which had preceded his arrival as Pat Fenlon’s replacement was encouragement enough for the task which lies ahead.
“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” said Butcher as he patiently conducted a round of post-match interviews with various strands of media, maintaining the positive and improved public relations approach he has already brought to the Easter Road club.
Time will tell whether the squad he has inherited have been under-achievers or are simply not good enough, but there was no doubt they were trying to please their new gaffer on Saturday. While lacking in guile and incisiveness, their levels of intensity and purpose could not be faulted. That, of course, is a common reaction to managerial change at any club but Butcher is insistent he will not settle for anything less on a weekly basis.
“We will make sure they maintain that level of commitment,” he said. “We had them for six training sessions before the game. That’s all we’ve had so far and every training session and every game is an audition for them, an opportunity to progress their careers. If I was playing for a new manager, I would make sure I worked my socks off to impress him.
“The response we got from the players was tremendous. The more the game went on, the more I thought we were the only team likely to win it. We just couldn’t get that goal but, judging by the backing of the Hibs fans, they must be happy with what they saw.”
The Hibernian perspective on proceedings might have been far gloomier had St Mirren capitalised on a much better start to the match. Steven Thompson miscued a simple chance in the third minute and they were more fluent and threatening in the first half.
But Hibs, who had a decent penalty claim turned down when James Collins went down under Darren McGregor’s challenge, merited their point on the strength of an improved second-half display, which saw sustained pressure without any clear-cut opportunities.
Danny Lennon’s men could be content at extending a run which has now seen them lose just one of their last seven Premiership games. Former Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello, predictably baited throughout by the visiting support on Saturday, has added further stability since his arrival.
“I was looking forward to playing in front of the Hibs fans all week!,” said Kello. “It was no problem. I enjoyed it. I had a smile on my face, I expected something like that from the Hibs fans.
“It was a 50-50 game and a draw was a fair result. I’m really enjoying it at St Mirren, I’m happy to be playing football again back in Scotland. Do I expect to be here beyond January when my initial deal runs out? I don’t know, but I’m happy at the club, I feel real support from the people at St Mirren, so I feel really good here.”