The 'brutal' Hibs assessment Lee Johnson agreed with and how a Martin Boyle tweak can be a solution

A clip emerged on social media in the aftermath of Hibs’ 1-0 loss at St Mirren in the Premiership on Saturday. Lee Johnson, conducting an interview, was informed by a Buddies supporter that his team were “brutal”.

Rather than allow the assessment to drift into the ether, he agreed with it.

Johnson also apologised to supporters for the manner of the performance having been booed off the park. He lamented the quality and decision making in the final third.

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Across the 90 minutes Hibs dominated possession with a 70 per cent share. Hibs had more passes, more accurate passes, more accurate crosses, more passes in the opposition half, more accurate long balls. But nothing to show from it. In fact, St Mirren ‘expected goals’ figure was 1.37 to Hibs’ 0.80, highlighting the struggles.

Hibs very much look like a team in transition. One which has added 13 new players. Yet there is still a reliance on the ‘old guard’, such as the midfield three of Jake Doyle-Hayes, Joe Newell and Josh Campbell. While none had poor games it was clear from early on the balance wasn’t right against a deep-lying St Mirren side with energy and bite in midfield. There was a lack of penetration centrally.

Goalkeeper David Marshall had more touches than the starting front three and Campbell.

On the right Martin Boyle was ahead of Chris Cadden. A dynamic which doesn’t get the best out of the former and stifles the latter. Johnson admitted he’d take the blame for the loss and this situation is perhaps one area that should have been addressed.

Boyle on the periphery

Hibs struggled to get Martin Boyle into dangerous areas against St Mirren.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Hibs struggled to get Martin Boyle into dangerous areas against St Mirren.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Hibs struggled to get Martin Boyle into dangerous areas against St Mirren. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Australian is no longer just a winger. He is a forward. His most productive performances came more centrally before his move to Saudi Arabia. He can be easier to defend against when on the wing. St Mirren’s left wing-back Richard Tait played deep and narrow, negating any space in behind. It afforded Hibs plenty of possession in the “outside spaces” and Cadden plenty of crossing opportunities but he was reluctant to make under-lapping runs. Boyle was too often on the periphery, a bystander, he didn't complete a successful dribble and was accurate with just a third of his nine crosses.

You look at Boyle’s goals this season. Against Hearts, he gets the ball centrally, drives forward then carries on his run and nets in the six-yard box. The Rangers goal was that of a No.9, getting onto Eli Youan's centre.

In Paisley, a solution could have arrived without a sub being made. Campbell moved into a narrow right position with Boyle through the middle in a free role. Because that’s what he is, a free spirit. He is a chaos creator. Over the years at Easter Road, he’s been adept as a wing-back and a winger. But he’s now in a position where his role within a structure is not to have structure. To be trusted to find the right areas.

With Kevin Nisbet injured and Christian Doidge still finding his rhythm again, getting someone close to him, able to link or run in behind could help bring him a look. Not only remove some burden but perhaps reenergise him.

Johnson said “we’ll get there” following the aforementioned brutal assessment. For Hibs to do so it will be with Boyle through the middle.



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