The international break afforded Paul Heckingbottom time to reflect but he has not changed his assessment of a squad he branded “weak” in the wake of a 3-0 defeat to Motherwell.
The lack of character shown in their most recent league outing, culminated in the Leith side’s second loss in two away games in the Premiership and left them languishing in ninth place.
It remains early days, with only four league games played, but that Fir Park showing was enough to leave Heckingbottom exposed to more scrutiny and criticism from a support perturbed by the way the team saw out last season and far from convinced by the summer signings or the quality of football being served up this term.
The manager shares some of the disquiet, though, and has made it clear that he needs more from his players.
“I said after that game that we looked like a pretty team who got beat. We want to be able to win games and perform consistently. Towards the back end of last season we won a couple of games ugly but [this season] we’ve not won one like that yet,” said Heckingbottom.
“You can’t just blame the guys in defence as it all starts from the front. We need more from the front players, the pressure they put on the ball to try to win it back, more cover in midfield. I tell the players regularly, if you make three mistakes in a row you’re going to concede a goal. We need to get back to players thinking ‘I’ve made a mistake but my mate behind covers for me’ or ‘I make a mistake, my mate behind can’t cover it but the goalkeeper saves it’. That’s what we need and we’ve not done that often enough.
“If you’re not comfortable doing it you’re going to limit your game time. We’ll keep working on the training pitch but the teams we pick and the players being dropped will reflect that as well.”
The absence of a settled team suggests that there is still tinkering to be done to find the best blend or the most willing exponents of his gameplan but as well as buying into the tactics, Heckingbottom says he is looking for that winning mentality and team spirit.
“When you bring new players in, probably the biggest thing you have to get is that team spirit, a togetherness. But the best way to do that is to get results, winning together brings confidence. It’s a case of everyone knowing their roles.”
The international break has gifted him extra time to work with the players, without the distraction of games, and Heckingbottom is feeling more confident as Hibs head to Rugby Park for another away day test, against Kilmarnock.
He said; “We have worked hard and you can try to gauge it but it means nothing, we’ll only see for sure at Kilmarnock. The players are committed, but there comes a point where it’s down to that mentality, when you cross that white line you do everything you can to win a game and that’s it.”
The chances of doing that will be bolstered by the arrival of right-back Jason Naismith, who is expected to make his debut tomorrow.
“It’s a big ask for him to come in and solve problems, the Hibs manager said of the former Peterborough, St Mirren and Ross County defender.
“But he has a reputation for being fully committed, someone who will put his body on the line.”