Goals that might veer towards the shortlist for individual glory at the end of the season count for little when the bigger picture looks bleak.
Stevie Mallan briefly lit up Hibs on Saturday with a sumptuous first-half volley against Hamilton Accies in an opening period in which Paul Heckingbottom’s side rarely allowed their hosts to touch the ball. But it was a familiar tale of woe as Ross Cunningham’s penalty just before the hour mark clouded whatever personal glory surrounded Mallan’s fine strike.
“I would replace every goal I have scored for a win right now,” admitted the midfielder.
Little wonder. The Easter Road side are in danger of requiring the use of an abacus as they clock up their ignominious league stats this season; without a win since the opening day of the season, tenth in the league and in five games from the last seven Hibs have allowed a lead to slip from their grasp. Only St Johnstone, at the foot of the table, have an inferior goal difference.
It adds up to a fairly grim opening quarter of the season. Still, though, Mallan has insisted that all hope has not been lost by Hibs with the midfielder confident that one big win can provide the catalyst from which the Easter Road side can force their way out of trouble. “It’s just the goals that are lacking,” said Mallan.
“Against Hamilton we could have had three, four, five. We can go on a run, the manager is saying that, we’re just waiting for one game where we go ‘boom’ and destroy a team and obviously that has not happened.
“But I feel it is coming and it’s that one game going forward that takes spirits and team higher.”
Whether the evidence is there to support such a claim remains to be seen.
Wary of talking himself into an SFA fine, Mallan gently tiptoed his way around what he felt was a contentious decision to give Accies their way back into the game with the second-half penalty call by referee John Beaton.
Mallan was found guilty of a foul on Blair Alston but he did accept that Hibs’ failure to claim what would have been only their second league win of the season owed much to their own shortcomings rather than any belonging to the whistler.
Hibs also had a last-minute goal by Christian Doidge chalked off, a call that seemed to be in keeping with the way luck has fallen for Heckingbottom’s side.
“I had a bit of afters with the referee after the game,” admitted Mallan. “I felt it wasn’t but I haven’t seen it back. I didn’t think I touched him. It’s hard for a referee. I thought he got in front of me and went down. I am not going to say he dived because it’s a hard decision for the referee, a cluster of bodies. But not a penalty for me. Another day it might not have been.
“I think he didn’t give the goal for a handball but his arms were at his side. I’m not sure if it hit his hand but the favour goes with the defending team sometimes. They are hard decisions and can go for or against you. Today went against us but it’s our fault, not the referee’s.”
Inevitably, Hamilton were the more contented of the two sides in the aftermath of a game that seemed like so many Hibs have been involved in this term.
Cunningham, pictured left, who signed an extended contract with Accies last week to keep him at the club until 2022, was thrilled with the point and believes such is the confidence within Brian Rice’s side that they feel they can avoid a relegation dog-fight this season.
A perennial in the battle to avoid the drop every summer, Cunningham has his sights on a more relaxed finale to the campaign.
“This could be the season we avoid the relegation battle,” he said. “We want to be better than we were last season and avoid being one of the teams who are fighting for their lives. Come the latter part of the season, hopefully we are in a good position and we are comfortable.”