STAND-in Hibernian skipper Ben Williams believes his inexperienced team can be proud of their efforts yesterday, despite further Scottish Cup heartache.
The Easter Road side finished the 3-0 defeat to Celtic with four teenagers on the pitch, and Williams believes the future is bright at Hibs, despite successive Scottish Cup final losses.
“It’s a huge disappointment getting this far again and missing out but I think we held our own against a fantastic side, we didn’t fold,” said Williams, who was named captain after James McPake was ruled out on Friday.
“Although we could have done better with the goals we conceded, we kept them to just those chances. There’s a lot of young boys in the dressing room who can hold their heads high.”
Alex Harris and Jordon Forster started the match, while Danny Handling and Ross Caldwell later joined them as substitutes.
“It was a massive game for them and a massive game for the club,” said Williams. “It’s just unfortunate we have let the supporters down. But we’ll look to bounce back next year.”
Although he conceded that Hibs had lost two “sloppy” goals in the opening 30 minutes, Williams did not point the finger of blame at anyone. “When you look at the number of defenders against forwards in the box it was one guy on his own and we’ve not dealt with that as a unit for the first two goals,” he added.
“We have to take credit for the fact we limited them to only a few chances. They were clinical in front of goal and that’s why they are champions and now the cup winners.
“But, as a unit throughout the 90 minutes, we kept them to two or three chances so we did reasonably well.”
Paul Hanlon was one member of the “unit” who might have reacted better at the first goal but, as he later said, Anthony Stokes’ ball into the middle proved a particularly hard one to defend. “I saw the ball coming across and it was going over my head then when I turned round Hooper had got a foot on it,” said Hanlon. “It was a great cross and sometimes you’ve got to say it was good play. The cross was right between Ryan [McGivern], Ben and myself and it took us out of the game.”
Williams was asked whether McPake’s presence might have made a difference. The centre-half has been hampered by a back injury in recent weeks and has not played since the end of last month. “It’s difficult to say,” said the goalkeeper. “James is our leader and he’s a great defender,” said the goalkeeper. “But it’s difficult to say if he would have made a difference or not.
“The fact of the matter is the players out on the pitch didn’t stop them and we went on to concede two goals we’d have liked to have done better with.”
Williams also appeared to support manager Pat Fenlon’s assertion that Leigh Griffiths, contrary to pre-match rumours, had been fit to start, although accepted that he might have been carrying the strains of a long, hard season.
“I think Leigh was fit,” he said. “Players play with all sorts of niggles throughout the season, it’s very rare a player is 100 per cent fit going into a game.
“I think he took a knock [during the game] and that didn’t help, it hampered him a bit. But he gave his all for the cause. It just wasn’t to be.”