Hibs' Martin Boyle says fall from top spot has focused minds
It has been two and a half months since Hibernian last had to do anything other than look over their shoulder.
Moving top of the Championship table on 15 October, they had clung on to that position. But, on Saturday, they were given a different perspective, dropping points at home to Raith Rovers and slipping behind Dundee United.
It stung but Martin Boyle, who came on to grab a late equaliser and a point, believes that has focused minds. The Leith club are midway through a tough run of games, against the teams who occupy the top half of the table, but draws against Morton and Raith have placed an even greater onus on them to find maximum points away to Falkirk on Hogmanay and then at home to Dundee United in their first game of 2017. They have struggled against both this term, with victories difficult to come by, but Boyle, pictured right, says that having done everything except convert enough of their myriad of chances on Saturday, he and the rest of the Hibs squad have the belief and the incentive to address that now.
“It felt like a defeat. If we had scored early doors it could have been a good day for us, but if you switch off and you don’t take your chances then you get punished in this league.”
The retribution was the slip down the standings. “Dundee United have been on our tails but we’ve just been concentrating on ourselves,” he added. “There are big games coming up for both of us, so we just need to get really stuck in.
“It’s hurting us and we’ve really got to be back up there in top spot. We had a change of formation [against Raith] but I thought we dominated the game and it was the best we’ve played in weeks, obviously minus the goals. We’ve really got to be back up the league.”
While Boyle says he and his team-mates have the necessary belief in each other, he says it will be interesting to see how United handle the pressure of being the team everyone else is chasing.
“Dundee United are doing well at the moment and they’re really challenging us,” he said. “But we are strong. We have put high expectations on ourselves, we are a massive club, we have great players, great talent but we take that in our stride. We feel we should be fighting at the top of the league and gaining promotion. It’s a tough league but we are not thinking that we are not the best team in the league. We have a good squad, good manager, we want to stay up there.”
The issue with converting enough of the chances created is something that has dogged Hibs too often this season where the range of attacking options are concerned and having passed up some openings, Boyle , who has netted six this term but conceded that tally could be higher, said that doubts may be creeping in.
“It might be in a few boys’ heads when they go through on goal,” he said.
“They might not believe they’re going to score. It’s been the case a lot of times that we’ve not taken our chances and we’ve been punished. You can only blame yourselves at the end of the day and a lot of teams are coming here and leaving with points if we’re not taking our chances.
“But there’s been a lot of change over and if you’re not doing well you’re going to lose your shirt. There’s a lot of competition for places and James Keatings has come back, which is making it even more competitive. But we know we should have a lot more goals than we’ve got.
“We’ve still got boys our injured who are to come back, vital players as well, and hopefully we get them back at the New Year and that can make a difference.”