The honeymoon isn’t so much over for Paul Heckingbottom, it’s more like the Hibernian manager has found himself deserted by his new life partner who has left him in a foreign clime without his passport and smalls. It would be hard to overstate how weak and witless the Easter Road men were in being eviscerated by a vibrant Motherwell; the home side exhibiting the match-winning organisation, intensity and forward propulsion that eluded their utterly bereft opponents.
In the closing minutes of a 3-0 defeat that could easily have been even more excruciating, the Hibs fans had had enough of their manager, never mind their afternoon in Lanarkshire, with a small section indulging in chants of “Hecky, Hecky get to f***”.
A resentment of Heckingbottom has simmered since the 6-1 battering at Ibrox. It bubbled up after this gave way to last week’s misuse of their darling Scott Allan – as they perceived it – with the midfielder hauled off after being posted all too wide of his playmaking zone on the right… before a late equaliser was shipped at home to St Johnstone.
The Englishman sought to take any sting out of his supporters’ rebuke of his efforts this season – which, it seems incredible now, follow on from the 42-year-old being garlanded for his efforts in the closing months of the last campaign. He didn’t hear the abuse telling him to find alternative employment, but neither did he dismiss it. “You are going to get stick because you are in charge, of course you are, that’s the nature of the job, that’s what you get paid to take,” he said. “You don’t get carried away when they are chanting your name and you don’t get carried away when you’re getting booed.”
Most frightening for those of a Hibs persuasion is that the Leith side are betraying all the terrible traits that precipitated them into dropping out of the top flight in 2013.
Motherwell got at them, because they were so easy to get at, the first goal arriving 23 minutes in courtesy of Sherwin Seedorf skipping in off the left and gliding round Steven Whittaker before driving the ball in at the corner of Ofir Marciano’s left-hand post.
Hibs seemed a collection of lightweight-a-likes with such as Glenn Middleton, Stevie Mallan and the centrally-restored Allan just not able to battle their opponents’ bustle, especially in wide areas, Heckingbottom acknowledged with disarming candour.
“One v one situations went wrong for us. A pretty team got dominated in one v ones at key moments. It happened in our box and their box. We’re stretched at the back in full-back areas and I know for a fact Motherwell will have tried to exploit that,” said the Hibs manager, who has lost David Gray, Tom James and Darren McGregor from his defensive options.
“They played big [James] Scott against Lewis [Stevenson], put the pace against Whitts [Steven Whittaker]. The same with the subs [Jermaine Hylton and Devante Cole]. We can’t hide it, can we? You guys ask me about it all the time. We can’t hide that. That’s been a big frustration without a doubt but we have coped with less bodies and it would be wrong for me to sit here and say that’s why we got beat.”
Adam Jackson’s – appropriately – weak shot with the goal at his mercy early in the second period was the token resistance, with the defender then crazily thumping his upright arm against a corner sent in from Liam Polworth ten minutes from time that allowed Liam Donnelly to slam in the resultant penalty for his eighth goal of the season.
Hibs’ paper roof then threatened to be completely shredded with substitute Jermaine Hylton allowed to run down the left channel, turn inside and thump in a shot that the upright Marciano seemed to be behind but yet could only divert high into the corner of the net for an 86th-minute home third goal.
Motherwell’s joy was in total contrast to Hibs’ woe and Fir Park manager Stephen Robinson, while cautioning he wasn’t getting “carried away” was willing to contend there was much more to come from his team on the back of plundering seven goals in a week to move up to fifth.
“We know what we’re trying to do and the fans know what kind of football we are trying to play,” he said. “The international break will give us a chance to get the boys that bit sharper. We can’t carry players but if we can get them into shape over the next couple of weeks then we will have an exciting team on our hands again.”
Hibs, despite Heckingbottom’s insistence they will “get better”, for now appear to have a team only likely to produce the execrable.