Kevin Nisbet’s desire to score goals will be no more acute than it normally is when he faces Rangers this afternoon but he recognises that success in doing so against the league leaders offers the potential for greater satisfaction.
Rangers travel to Easter Road today with the enviable record of having not yet conceded a goal on domestic business. That defensive resistance has provided the platform for their impressive start to the season but this afternoon they come up against another form side, in a contest that should provide interesting insight into both teams’ realistic ambitions for the season.
Failure to beat Aberdeen has been Hibernian’s only loss of the campaign thus far, the draw against Motherwell, the only other blip. Finding ways to win in every other fixture, whether by sweeping sides aside as they have on a couple of occasions or digging out the result against others, they have started the campaign well.
They can also point to the absence of Alex Gogic in that Dons game, a player who has been an integral signing for a team that loves to attack but needs him covering their backs when they do. They were also without fellow summer signing and proven goalscorer Nisbet. There will be no such reasons or excuses today.
Hibs will be without loanee Jamie Murphy, who is unable to play against his parent club, while a mysterious health issue keeps Scott Allan on the sidelines. But Drey Wright can step in on the flank, while Allan has been a bit part player this term anyway.
At the back, they have a line-up that has yet to lose a goal from open play, while up top there are players who have proved they are capable of finding their way to goal.
Nisbet has already netted four goals in five appearances and, with the squad in buoyant mood, he is itching to add to that tally against Rangers and would love to be the man who finally breaches their seemingly-impenetrable defence.
“It’s been a great start, not just for me but the club too. It’s good for a striker to score goals and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“I think you need to go out and want to score against every team. For me this is just another team that’s in front of me and I will want to stick a couple past them.
“But, to be the first [to score against Rangers] would be good, although it’s just about playing well, focusing on getting the three points however that happens. If we win 1-0 with a deflection we’ll take it and move on to Celtic.”
With others interested, Nisbet was lured to Easter Road this season with the promise of game time and a two-man strikeforce that would play to his strengths. The supply from the flanks, as well as the link up with midfield has presented him with the opportunities he thrives on and, having got off to a flier, the 23-year-old is happy to be proving that the goal threat he posed in the lower leagues can be replicated on the Premiership stage.
“People see the Championship as being on a par with League One and League Two but there’s a lot of good players, good strikers. They need the chance to prove themselves and show they can score goals [at this level].
“It’s important to get the first goal and for me that came with a hat-trick against Livingston. Then I got injured which wasn’t great but I’ve picked up on that form and hopefully I can take it into Sunday.
“I like playing in a two, especially with Doidge and we’ve got a real partnership going. I think that’s gone really well. The injury stopped it but we’re on the right track now.”
In the Alan Stubbs and Neil Lennon eras at Hibs, their teams were a constant irritation to the Ibrox side. But last season was the first since 2012 where the capital side failed to take a single point off of their Glasgow foes. It is something everyone at the Leith club would love to rectify.
They also have to address home form before it starts to look like an issue. While there have been four wins out of four on the road this season, it is in front of the empty Easter Road stands that they have dropped points. But Hibs are only thinking about this 90 minutes, says Nisbet.
“We know Rangers haven’t conceded any goals this season and we haven’t conceded any from open play. But we’re both scoring so it should be a good game.”
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