PAUL Hanlon says it will take just one big performance to kick-start Hibs’ inconsistent and – in the eyes of most of their fans – unacceptable start to life in the Championship, but knows it has to happen fast and that the young Easter Road outfit have to grow up quickly.
Queen of the South 1-0 Hibernian
Scorer: Queen of the South - McShane (29)
Saturday’s defeat at Dumfries was Hibs’ fourth loss in six in the league, which saw them slip to fourth from bottom. Hanlon, who is approaching 200 games for the club, said: “We are massively disappointed. We weren’t good enough all over the pitch. We are conceding too many goals, not scoring enough and getting punished for it.”
Hibs’ seemingly endless malaise has been well documented for years, which meant that a long away trip to play on a plastic pitch against feisty opposition who probably fancied their chances would have filled few of their fans with confidence.
Hanlon, however, refused to blame the Palmerston surface for the Easter Road club’s latest depressing result – their first league defeat by Queen of the South in half a century.
He said: “I thought the pitch was great and enjoyed playing on it. We would never use that as an excuse, no matter what the result was. We are a young squad and have to learn fast and start picking up points in this league.
“We are getting the ball in middle areas, but not creating enough chances.
“We know that a big performance is in us. It’s just about putting it all together. There are goals in us, but it’s also about keeping clean sheets. We can’t dwell on mistakes. We acted not too badly on Saturday when we lost the goal, but we still must do much better.”
Queens should have gone ahead in 28 minutes when Ian McShane swung over a free kick from the left which was knocked on by Gavin Reilly. But Andy Dowie, unmarked, blasted over from ten yards. A minute later there was to be no reprieve for the Easter Road side when Scott Robertson was robbed by Reilly, who linked with Iain Russell who charged through on the left and his cut-back was drilled home beyond goalkeeper Mark Oxley from 12 yards by McShane with the Hibs defence sliced apart.
McShane said afterwards: “There is a great team spirit in the squad with a mixture of experience and youth. Everyone gets on well together and we have a great laugh at training every day.
“We are delighted for James Fowler, who has taken over since Jim McIntyre left, and hopefully he gets the job. He’s not changed much and all the boys are working hard. He’s always encouraging me to get in the box and get goals.”
Hibs were bereft of ideas for the most part, but in 59 minutes Matthew Kennedy drove over a cross from the left which found Hanlon, but his flashing near post header went just over. It offered a brief glimmer of hope for the Edinburgh side, who then brought on Jason Cummings for Jake Sinclair.
The move almost paid dividends when the substitute linked well with Lewis Stevenson in 67 minutes, but he pulled his shot wide of goal.
Hibs supporters have been prepared to show understanding as manager Alan Stubbs beds in a host of new players, but the club is presently charting depths once unthinkable for a club of such stature. Quite how much further they can sink presently seems anyone’s guess, but there’s no question they can ill afford to find themselves so far off the promotion race at this early stage of the season with an already disillusioned support close to breaking point.
Stubbs admitted: “We are not doing enough in all areas over the pitch. It’s not the start we would have wanted, that’s stating the obvious. But it’s going to take time to get things right. There have been a lot of changes and an automatic transformation isn’t easy.”
For Fowler, it was four points out of six, and this week may find out if he has done enough to get the Palmerston job on a permanent basis, with, it is understood, over 30 applicants.
He said: “I’m planning to speak to the board later this week and we will we how we get on. Four points from two games and I know the group well. Hopefully I get the nod. I know there is a lot of interest, but hopefully I’ve shown enough I’m ready for this role.”