Between now and a December visit to Ibrox for the resumption of the cinch Premiership following the break for the World Cup there will be a few sleepless nights for Hibs. Just three points taken from a possible 21 across their last seven games will not make for a comfortable hiatus.
The only grace is the respite that the next month will afford. There is an opportunity to coax full fitness back into key players with the lack of quality all too apparent across recent outings. In truth, there was very little between Hibs and Kilmarnock on Saturday afternoon at Rugby Park in a game which could easily have settled differently on another day.
A VAR-induced penalty call, dispatched by Danny Armstrong, was all that stood between the teams with Hibs in a position where they could present a decent argument to suggest they probably created the better of the chances. What is notable, however, is the lack of composure and ruthlessness to finish them off.
This was scrappy and ugly to watch, especially in the harried finale as Hibs tried desperately to eek something out of the game and Kilmarnock somehow managed to hold firm. The remainder of the season and how it pans out may well hinge now on how impactful the likes of Kevin Nisbet and Aiden McGeady can be when they are available.
Certainly, goalkeeper David Marshall remains optimistic that Hibs can still prevail despite the damage recent weeks have inflicted on their league ambitions. It is only the inconsistencies around them that have prevented them from being marooned further away from the top six.
“We’ve let ourselves down, if I’m being honest, in four or five league games with really poor performances,” conceded Marshall. “But we’ve won four on the spin as well, so it’s up and down. It’s not good enough for the club at the minute but this break will hopefully do us well, Kevin Nisbet will be back, Aiden McGeady, Martin Boyle is obviously away to the World Cup, I thought Harry McKirdy looked good when he came on as well. The second half of the season has to be a lot better from us.”
Marshall also maintained that the results across the last month have not simply washed over the squad but have left their mark. “There are a lot down there hurting [in the dressing room], it’s a tough time,” he said. “It’s a strange season because we came off the back of four wins on the spin, we lost the Dundee United game and it was probably the best we’ve played all season and we lost 1-0. Since then it’s been a mixture of average and OK performances and a few really poor ones.
“The experienced players are going to be important, it’s going to be a long five weeks until the next game. I think we’ve got a week off then it’s going to be four weeks where we need to work really hard. I think anybody would agree Nisbet’s history in the SPL is very good, his goalscoring record is excellent. So you’re going to miss that. If we can keep everybody fit there’s no doubt for me we’ll have a better second half of the season but we need to because the results haven’t been good enough lately.”