WHEN a striker scores his first goal in two months and elects not to celebrate, it suggests all is not well. Hibernian’s Dominique Malonga plays down any suggestions he was less than thrilled on making it 3-1 against Livingston the other night – while at the same time acknowledging not everything is right in his world.
The 26-year-old hasn’t seemed the same player since returning at the end of February from representing Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations hastily staged by Equatorial Guinea. By and large, the Easter Road men haven’t appeared the same team either.
Before Malonga travelled to Africa, he had found the net 11 times in six appearances for the club he joined in September. In the past two months, the forward, who boasts Serie A experience, has netted only three times in 11 appearances. The majority of these outings have come from the bench, it should be noted, with the Frenchman losing his place in the side after Alan Stubbs’ men suffered three consecutive defeats.
Malonga more recently suffered the indignity of being a substitute who was substituted during the club’s first derby win of the season a week past on Sunday, but his greater struggles right now he claims are with his limbs. The player maintains he didn’t go out on one to make a point when he showed no reaction to scoring with a fine 81st minute strike at Almondvale, a goal which ensured Hibs would move to within a point of Rangers in second place.
“No it’s ok, it’s ok. It’s a good goal for me but I lost many balls, my first touch wasn’t good, I just want to be ok,” he said. “It’s just one game. I just want to be healthy. I have had a little bit of soreness on my knee, so it was good for me. It was a good goal and moving forward I just hope to get back to my best.
“It is just a pain I have but I think day after day it’s better. I just need to work hard and I just hope I’m ok for the play-off, because it’s all about the play-off.
It was a good goal and moving forward I just hope to get back to my bestDominique Malonga
“I hope two weeks from now I’m ok. [Being taken off in the derby] was a bad moment but it’s ok. I’m a player. Bad moments happen to everybody and I’m here and I just hope to get back to my best. In training I have to work hard and send a message for my team-mates. I just hope to score again and play well, perform.”
According to Stubbs, his team did that to a far higher standard than Falkirk last weekend, despite losing out 1-0 to their opponents in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Malonga has a slightly different take. He calls the Hampden exit a “blow out”. He blames “inexperience” for the recent slide in fortunes that threaten to leave Hibs with six play-off games to negotiate to earn Premiership promotion – as well as a flaw he could be tasked to remedy.
“I think on Saturday we played well… but many, many games we’ve played well and we haven’t scored. If you don’t score you give confidence and I think Falkirk played a good game because they stayed focused and one chance they scored. After that you have to run, run, run and ‘pfffff’, a game like that you need to score, you need to win and you just need to learn about that because in the play-off you win or you go home, you win or die. We just have to learn and at Livingston we responded well and I’m happy for the team. Now we just keep going. We have a game against Alloa [on Saturday], then the last game of the season at Easter Road and I hope for the fans we win the games.”