Hibs stay grounded despite Livingston exuberance after leapfrogging Hearts and sticking to principles

Defender Hanlon also relieved to be on right side of VAR call
The Hibs players celebrate their 1-0 win over Livingston in West Lothian.The Hibs players celebrate their 1-0 win over Livingston in West Lothian.
The Hibs players celebrate their 1-0 win over Livingston in West Lothian.

Hibs moved ahead of Hearts in the league standings thanks to victory over Livingston on Saturday but Paul Hanlon has been around long enough to know that it is far too early in the season to get carried away.

There were exuberant celebrations among the players and the fans at the final whistle after they survived a couple of penalty calls, including a possible Hanlon handball very late in the game, to see out the contest 1-0 thanks to Martin Boyle’s first half finish. “I’ve not seen it again but something hits my face,” explained Hanlon. “I think the ball hits my face and after it hits a bit of my hand but I'm not sure where my hand was so it’s hard to tell if it was a penalty but it wasn’t given at the end of the day so we can thank a good offside trap!”

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Invited to take a second look by VAR, referee Grant Irvine concluded that Livingston had veered offside in the build up, trumping any subsequent penalty shout. But, so late in the day, Hanlon admitted it had been a stomach-churning wait. “Of course it's nerve-racking, especially at that time in the game,” he said. “It was nervy for all of us but you just have to hope and pray that the decision goes your way. The ref took the two captains aside and said that he was looking at a handball and an offside and he had to go over to the screen to check them. I was delighted he came away with the offside in the end.”

Weathering periods of Livingston superiority and riding out a tense conclusion, it is a sign of how Hibs are evolving. A few months or even weeks ago, they might have relinquished their winning position and been forced to settle for a draw but against a Livingston team fighting for their lives, they held on. “I think so we’ve had our fair share of bad luck with VAR so maybe we deserved that one,” continued Hanlon. “It's a mixture of things like sticking to our principles and believing in what we’re doing. It was tough conditions on Saturday and while we try to play out from the back as much as possible, there are times when you've just got to clear the ball. It's about doing the right things at the right time and our decision-making was good on Saturday. We were picking and choosing when it was on and we were trying to find players in the attacking areas.

“The gaffer has a style of play that we all want to play and it’s just about everyone trusting it and staying on the same page. Obviously, we hit a bump against Celtic, which could have dented confidence, but I don't think you’ll have seen any evidence of that against Livingston. Now it’s about sticking together and working towards what we are all trying to do

With four wins out of five helping them to leapfrog derby rivals Hearts, Hanlon knows what that will mean to the support but he says there is no point in the players getting carried away. “We are looking towards the break now and we want to put ourselves in as good a position as we can ahead of that,” he added. “This one will definitely help.”