Hibs reaction: 'Daddy' issues in defence, what Hearts sacking means for derby, Dundee United gathering steam

We pick out three observations from Hibs’ 2-1 defeat to Dundee United at Tannadice on Easter Sunday ...

Paul Hanlon a father figure

Hibs undoubtedly missed Paul Hanlon in the heart of the Hibs defence at Tannadice as the inexperienced Will Fish, who had a tough time up against a wily old striker like Steven Fletcher, was partnered with CJ Egan-Riley - a player better suited to the midfield.

Although James Jeggo upped his performance after last weekend’s disappointing display, and Joe Newell made his first start since early February, to give the backline some protection, there was a vulnerability that would have been less evident had the veteran been fit.

Hibs manager Lee Johnson shows his frustration during the 2-1 defeat at Dundee United.  (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)Hibs manager Lee Johnson shows his frustration during the 2-1 defeat at Dundee United.  (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Hibs manager Lee Johnson shows his frustration during the 2-1 defeat at Dundee United. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
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It was an issue recognised by manager Lee Johnson, who illustrated his high regard for the club captain with an interesting description and the revelation that he is being earmarked for the derby.

"Of course the defence missed Paul Hanlon - he's the daddy in there. It's the verbals, the organisation… but he couldn't play, it was impossible with his knee. He was in too much pain and we've got to wrap him up in cotton wool to try to make sure he's available for next weekend."

Derby intrigue

Having already faced up several times this season Hibs must have thought they would know exactly what to expect when Hearts turn up at Easter Road this Saturday.

But events in Gorgie on Sunday will have given them fresh food for thought. While the Hearts squad remains the same the management team doesn’t, with Robbie Neilson being dismissed following his side’s sixth defeat in seven matches. It is a run that killed off their Scottish Cup hopes and allowed Aberdeen to leapfrog them and Hibs will be kicking themselves that they could not capitalise by picking up enough points to skip past them as well, or at least give themselves the chance to do so at the weekend.

Now they will have to wait like everyone else to see who is put in charge of training and then selecting a Tynecastle side to cross the city and contest the latest Edinburgh match-up. It will make it harder for Lee Johnson and his staff to second guess their rivals’ line-up and make plans. But they will be wary of the dreaded bounce teams tend to enjoy when a new gaffer (even an interim one) takes control.

Time to fight

Timing is everything and the fact that Dundee United kept fighting all the way to the end of this one shows that they have the mindset to keep pushing right to the end of the season in an attempt to save their Premiership status.

Having addressed the issue of squad fitness and given them the energy for the fight, they are demonstrating they also have the stomach for it.

Under Jim Goodwin, who also has a point to prove, they seem to be gathering a head of steam and it is now just a question of whether they have left it too late. Not too long ago it looked like relegation, or at the very least, the play-off, was a foregone conclusion but now there will be a few clubs sitting above them feeling a little more jittery and that could include more than just Kilmarnock and Ross County.

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With all three of the bottom clubs recording notable results in the past few weeks and St Johnstone struggling to find a win, the post split head-to-heads could make for a nervy end to the season for the McDiarmid Park side as well.



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