Kevin Nisbet: His Hibs travails, emotions spilling over - but frustration aimed at one person only

There was no hiding Kevin Nisbet’s emotions as he was pulled from Hibs’ game against Ross County on Wednesday night with the scoreline blank and 23 minutes remaining.

Hibs' Kevin Nisbet was frustrated at being taken off by Jack Ross against Ross County.
Hibs' Kevin Nisbet was frustrated at being taken off by Jack Ross against Ross County.

He gestured that he did not want to come off, then huffed past manager Jack Ross. But it wasn’t the petulance of a prima donna, who regards himself more worthy than colleagues. It was the frustration of a striker in desperate need of a goal to bolster his own confidence and prevent the torture of missed opportunities running through his mind on a loop.

With four decent chances to give his side the lead against bottom-of-the-table County, his efforts lacked either precision or power.

After a blistering first season at the club, the task of backing that up has proved onerous. Mentally and physically, the long season followed by a summer on international duty and an early return to club action in Europa Conference qualifiers appears to have taken a toll. The reshuffling of personnel around him also has to be factored in when considering why he has yet to recapture the form of last year.

Nisbet has been involved heavily in recent Scotland squads.

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In recent matches there have been improvements in his link up play and movement, in the outward effervescence and ability to get into dangerous positions, but with the execution still to be finessed, the goals are playing hard to get. And, frustration levels are growing.

So far this season he has managed just four goals. At the corresponding point last term he had ten, with another nine, for club and country, to come. But, others were profligate in Dingwall, too, including captain Paul Hanlon, who said it was up to others to alleviate the pressure on the 24 year-old Scot.

“It’s a team game and we all need to chip in,” said Hanlon. “We’ve probably been a bit too reliant on the same people scoring the goals. Rather than focusing on Nizzy not scoring we should maybe focus on the rest of us weighing in a bit more.”

Last season Boyle, Nisbet and Christian Doidge were prolific, and, while the energetic Socceroo got this term off to a flier, Doidge has suffered through illness and injury, as Nisbet grappled with form.

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Nisbet will be keen to rediscover his scoring touch.

The fact he was being replaced by the complementary Doidge – only three of his 18 Hibs goals were scored when the Welshman was not on the pitch last season – will have made his substitution harder to swallow.

“I have no problem with players being frustrated coming off but you have to be respectful as well,” warned his Easter Road boss. “He’s got to understand that sometimes it’s justified.

“Kevin was good, particularly in the first half and he’s obviously feeling it because he wants to score goals.

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“But if he keeps putting himself into the positions he did in the first half he’ll be okay.”

While the emotions spilled over on Wednesday, experience will encourage Ross as he is forced to rely on Nisbet on Saturday, with Doidge and Boyle both suspended.

Angry when a transfer south fell through last winter, Nisbet put his disappointment to the side, knuckling down at training and in games and there is no reason to doubt his mindset now. Lacking the belief a striker distils from goalscoring, much of the current frustration is aimed at himself.

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