Ever-improving Hibs prove work beginning to pay off

EVEN when things weren’t going well at the beginning of the season, everyone at Hibernian insisted that the promise was always evident on the training ground.

Liam Craig: 'Special moment'. Picture: SNS

Now the behind-the-scenes work is beginning to pay off.

On Tuesday night Hibs progressed in the League Cup with Liam Craig scoring his first career hat-trick. He rounded off the personal treble with a perfectly executed spot kick.

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“I was obviously delighted on a personal note,” said the midfielder, who left the stadium with the match ball. “The third was also my 50th career goal, so I’m delighted to get the goals but the most important thing is that we’re in the next round of the cup.”

When the penalty was awarded there was competition for the honour but Craig said he was delighted that, in the end, he didn’t have to battle one of his team-mates for the ball.

“In fairness to big James Collins, he gave the ball to me. I would have tried to make him give me it anyway!

“Me, him and Viney, all three of us practise taking penalties after training and it was going to be a case of whoever gets the ball first is going to take it but, with me being on my hat-trick, James gave me the ball and I was delighted to get the hat-trick.

“In fairness, I have not missed one into Ben [Williams, the Hibs goalkeeper] yet and he’s a penalty expert. It’s eight out of eight so far and I have sent him the wrong way all eight times. If I had missed the penalty tonight Ben would have chased me down the tunnel!

“It is a special moment and it’s something I can look back on but, for now, it’s all about Saturday. We are back to league business and we want to continue this run. That’s six games now and regardless who you are playing, it is still six games unbeaten.”

The cup victory came against lower league Stranraer but Craig says the upcoming league games will present even tougher challenges and offer a better benchmark of just how far Hibs have come since their disappointing early season form.

Craig added: “[Assistant manager] Jimmy [Nicholl] and the manager have been excellent in the way they have dealt with the players and dealt with training in the early part of the season when we weren’t getting results and we weren’t scoring goals. They kept the place bubbly, kept the boys up and we are getting our rewards now for all the hard work we have put in in training and the work they have put in as well.

“We are not going to get carried away because we never got carried away when we were losing games at the start of the season and it’s the same now. We have won a few but they are in the last now and we have three or four big games coming up, with Inverness and Partick away and then Aberdeen and Celtic at home.

“That’s four big games and then that’s the first 11 games. After that, we will have a better idea of where we are in the league.”