Hibs 0-0 St Johnstone: No score bore at Easter Road

It was billed as a family fun day, the chance for an adult and two kids to watch Hibs in action against St Johnstone for just £22.

But there was little evidence of the F-word as Easter Road's lowest crowd of the season spent 90 shivering minutes probably wishing they hadn't bothered taking up the offer.

Fun it most certainly wasn't, with the protagonists managing just three shots on target between them over the course of a game which always appeared destined to end goalless.

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One would most certainly have been enough for either side to take three precious points as they seek to extricate themselves from the bottom end of the SPL table but both Hibs goalkeeper Mark Brown and his counterpart at the other end of the pitch, Peter Enckelman, like the 10,248 looking on, ended up little more than freezing spectators.

Twice Enckelman was asked to make routine stops from Edwin de Graaf while Brown looked on gratefully as Collin Samuel failed to make sufficient contact on Danny Grainger's cross to divert the ball past him.

Other than that, there was nothing to excite the fans who resorted to trying to entertain themselves, culminating in a chant for Colin Calderwood to give them a wave.

The Hibs boss duly obliged, but when that is being counted among the first-half highlights then you can judge for yourself just how dire an encounter this was.

Both Calderwood and Saints manager Derek McInnes could declare themselves well satisfied with the clean sheet gained, the defenders on both sides coming out decidedly well ahead of the strikers on show, but it's goals the fans want to see - or at least a reasonable amount of goalmouth action.

Goals, however, have been at a premium for Saints in recent weeks, Zander Diamond's own goal at Pittodrie the previous week being all they've had to show for their efforts in six matches now while Hibs' own difficulties up-front have been well catalogued.

Again Calderwood was left with only one recognised striker in Colin Nish with Derek Riordan suspended, Lithuanian hitman Valdas Trakys nursing a calf injury and long-term casualties Merouane Zemmama and Darryl Duffy yet to be set a target date for their return to action.

Inevitably, the home fans' ire turned on Colin Nish who again found himself the target of the boo boys as Hibs struggled to create a clear-cut opening, those voicing their displeasure ignoring the thankless task the big forward was being asked to do in taking on both Michael Duberry and Steven Anderson as the lone striker.

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Calderwood was careful not to have a go at the fans for their reaction but lent Nish his support by saying: "It's something you do not want to hear. I have a lot of sympathy for big Colin.

"We have to be careful how we go about supporting our team, there is a balance and you have to be careful you don't cross the line and it affects the club."

And De Graaf, who has at times found himself in a similar position following bad misses, weighed in to say: "We need the fans to support the whole team, that's the best way to help us.

"Colin is no different but he had a very difficult job. He was up on his own against two physical defenders and didn't get many opportunities.

But he is a smart guy and knows how quickly things can change in football.

"He could go out next week and score two goals to quickly become the hero."

A hero is exactly what Hibs need with their next matches against St Mirren and Hamilton, teams, like St Johnstone, below them in the table.

While Calderwood has stated the goal has to be to ensure third place doesn't disappear over the horizon, the pressing need for Hibs is to lift themselves towards the top six by beating those clubs in their immediate wake - something they have singularly failed to do so far this season.

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However, as captain Ian Murray insisted, that amid the disappointment of failing to win at home - something Hibs have achieved just twice in seven attempts - there was the "positive" of a clean sheet for a side which had shipped four goals the week before.

He said: "Normally we don't have a problem scoring goals, it's been at the other end of late. We didn't create too much but it was pleasing to get a clean sheet. It's another point on the board but we do want to play better and create more."

The fact Hibs didn't, according to Calderwood was: "We made lots of little mistakes so we never really had any fluency. But we stayed in the game and did not lose, that's the obvious positive."

Given there was so little to talk about in terms of the football itself, Maltese referee Christian Lautier, drafted in as part of the SFA's strike-busting team from around Europe, naturally found himself the subject of attention having arrived at Easter Road with his assistants Philip Agius and Jospeh Camilleri in a people carrier boasting blacked-out windows.

Lautier, who had been down to officiate at the Scottish Cup replay between Junior outfit Beith and Airdrie United before being directed to the Capital, however, provided little himself by way of talking points.

Much of that was probably down to this being one of the dullest matches likely to be played this season, offering no incidents to stretch Lautier other than a late claim from Saints for a penalty, the visitors adamant the ball had struck Sol Bamba's hand.

Indeed, Lautier only saw fit to have a quiet word with one player, Hibs skipper Murray, following a challenge on Saints' Murray Davidson. And the Easter Road star admitted to being impressed. He said: "I don't think it was a case of everyone being on their best behaviour, it was just one of those games in which there wasn't much for him to do, no big decision in terms of penalties, free-kicks or offsides.

"His English was perfect and when he spoke to me he made his point without becoming over-exuberant with his words. He was quite calm."

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The uncertainty surrounding the influx of referees following the swift departure of Portuguese whistler Cosme Mathado who, until Friday afternoon had been pencilled in for this game, along with the Artic conditions undoubtedly didn't help swell the Easter Road crowd, down almost 1000 on the previous home match but, Calderwood declared, there had been no doubt about the match going ahead.

He said: "We knew the game was going to go ahead one way or another, the only people telling us different was television."

And given the experience of having a foreign referee in charge, Calderwood believes it could become a feature of Scottish football. He said: "I think in the development of football that's something that will probably become a more regular thing."

Mr Lautier was said to have enjoyed the experience of his first SPL match. The rest of us just wish we could have said the same.