Recurring nightmare goes on as Hibs suffer the jitters

Scott Allan scores to give Hibs a 2-0 lead over Ross County on Saturday, only for the Easter Road side to be pegged bag and forced to settle for a draw. Picture: SNS.
Scott Allan scores to give Hibs a 2-0 lead over Ross County on Saturday, only for the Easter Road side to be pegged bag and forced to settle for a draw. Picture: SNS.
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A quarter of the season gone and still Hibs haven’t sussed out how to get themselves moving up the table.

The fact that they are letting leads slip means they are losing points – 13 from winning positions thus far – and their fans are losing patience, but if the players and staff are worried and, according to Jason Naismith, they are, their response to the situation is even more concerning.

On Saturday they again failed to see out the victory, despite leading 2-0 with 16 minutes remaining.

They had squandered several opportunities to add to that advantage but, having passed them up, they then sat back and invited Ross County to come back at them. The Highlanders, with drive, a more incisive cutting edge and, ultimately, a more focused approach, made them regret that as they salvaged a draw with a late Joe Chalmers strike.

The Dingwall side will consider themselves unfortunate not to snatch all three points after Brian Graham, who had ignited the fightback with a wonderful 74th minute strike, passed up an easier chance shortly afterwards when he got on the end of a perfectly-weighted cross but unexpectedly headed wide from inside the box.

For Hibs it was a recurring nightmare. The sight of them departing the pitch with heads bowed and with the sound of boos reverberating around the ground is becoming all too familiar, but if they want things to change they are going to have to alter their approach, with their tactics, temperament, energy levels and game management all open 
to question.

Asked how they turn it around and move away from their current berth, second bottom of the Premiership, the response is simplistic.

“I don’t know what it’s down to, we just need that win,” said Naismith, pictured, who was one of the better performers, playing a lovely ball over the top for substitute Daryl Horgan to run on to at the start of the second half and rifle past Ross Laidlaw in the County goal. It was the goal that the Easter Road side had been edging towards for periods of the first half as they rattled the woodwork and tried to find a way through the visiting backline.

But they needed to go over or round and the right ball over the top, the pace down the flanks or that injection of pace at the right time to burst into an area to grab the finish were all too often missing.

“If Chalmers’ doesn’t go in from 30 yards, we scrape it 2-1,” added Naismith, “and we move on and everybody forgets the last 20 minutes. But it’s just not going for us just now and it’s up to us as players to change it. We need to stand up and be counted.”

Saturday’s predicament had little to do with luck, though, and everything to do with Hibs lacking the mental fortitude to put doubts to the back of their mind, and dig deep to close down players who were more hungry and confident despite being mauled 6-0 by Celtic last week and losing two early second-half goals in Leith.

Scott Allan had made the most of the space he was granted on the edge of the area to travel inside and extend the home lead in the 46th minute but Hibs couldn’t kill the game off and when County came back at them, the jitters were obvious.

“It’s natural, the run we’ve been on, to feel edgy but we need to cope with that better,” added the Hibs full-back and former Ross County man. “But we didn’t and they’ve scored. That’s bitterly disappointing. At a club like Hibs, that’s got to be a worry – we should be seeing that out. 2-0 up, it’s down to us as players to manage the game better but we didn’t. Draws aren’t good enough. We need to keep believing. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. But, of course we care. If you saw us training every day, we care. Things aren’t going for us but you earn your luck. We’ve only got ourselves to blame.”