Neil Lennon: Dumbarton is trickiest venue in Championship
Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon watched his team blow Dundee United away last Friday night after unleashing an attacking maelstrom which their Ladbrokes Championship title rivals failed to '¨handle.
But the former Celtic manager has warned that the inclement weather at Dumbarton’s exposed Cheaper Insurance Direct stadium this weekend will be a significant threat to his team’s four-point lead at the summit.
The conditions will not be the only consideration. After producing their best performance of the season in front of an adrenaline-inducing 19,000 crowd under the Easter Road floodlights, Lennon’s players will also have to make the transition to competing at less salubrious surroundings in a ground that holds just over 2,000.
United, beaten 3-0 by Hibs courtesy of a Jason Cummings brace and John McGinn solo effort, have already lost twice at the home of part-time Dumbarton this season. Falkirk have also experienced a fruitless trip to the west coast.
“This is a dangerous game for us,” said Lennon, whose side needed a Cummings penalty to settle the contest at Dumbarton in September.
“I think it’s the trickiest venue to go in the Championship, particularly with the inclement weather at the minute.
“So it’s a very difficult game. Watching the Dundee United game [a fortnight ago], there was a gale blowing one way down the pitch.
“It’s almost impossible to play any kind of free-flowing football so it becomes a bit of a lottery sometimes.
“It can be a bit sticky, to say the least. And, to be fair to Dumbarton, Stevie Aitken has done a great job – they’ve had some really positive results.
“I might have to look at team selection because the wind plays a huge part down there as the stadium is so open.
“It might have a bearing on what we’re thinking.”
Lennon is hoping that his players are also bracing themselves for the mental challenge in making sure they are motivated to play at Dumbarton.
“That’s part of being in any division,” he added. “You could be at the Emirates one week then Bournemouth in front of 12,000 the next.
“It’s no different for us, a Friday night game live on the telly and the atmosphere is great. They responded brilliantly to that, now it’s a different venue and different opposition – different conditions.
“You have to adapt to it very quickly as well otherwise you could come unstuck. Psychologically, I think the players are aware of what’s ahead of them.”
Lennon was given a pleasant boost this week when he realised that he was mistaken in thinking that Kris Commons’ month-long loan deal expired on Tuesday. In fact, it runs until Sunday, making the Celtic and former Scotland midfielder available for the Dumbarton game.
However, Lennon’s attempts to prolong Commons’ Easter Road stay have not moved on ahead of what could potentially now be his last game for Hibs.
Lennon said: “We’re not further down the line. There are more things to consider this time, for the player and Celtic as well.
“It’s a question of finance as well, whether we can do it over a length of time. I think he is enjoying it here and it’s been good for him, I think he’s starting to show.
“It’s been good for him and it’s been good for us. I think it’s worked for both. We’re four points clear now, we weren’t when he came in.
“He won us the game at Falkirk and he played a big part in the game last week as well. He is a class player.”
Lennon, meanwhile, insisted that he was not aware of any interest in 12-goal striker Cummings, despite reports that English Championship clubs Queens Park Rangers and Barnsley were keen.
Lennon said: “It’s news to me. He’s not for sale, I want to keep him. He’s the leading goal scorer and I want to keep him.
“I want to look after business at our end. If he keeps progressing the way he is then there is no reason why there won’t be other suitors out there as well for him.
“I want him here because he is a very important player and we made that clear at the start of the season.”
However, Neal Eardley’s time at Easter Road has come to an end, with the former Birmingham City right-back agreeing a move to Northampton Town after his short-term deal at Hibs expired.
Eardley made two substitute appearances after joining in September.