Mensing eyes spot of bother for the Hibees

Simon Mensing put Hibs in a spot of bother on more than one occasion last season, now the Hamilton penalty king is hoping to land the Easter Road outfit in a bit more trouble.

The midfielder converted three times from 12 yards to ensure the Hibees twice left New Douglas Park empty-handed, claiming the opener in a 2-0 win before striking twice more as Accies romped to a 4-1 victory, their biggest of the season.

In all, Mensing claimed ten goals last season, six of them coming from the spot, part of a sequence of nine successive penalty strikes stretching back to a 2-0 triumph over Aberdeen almost two years ago and ended only by Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello's wonder save at Tynecastle last month.

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Despite that disappointment 28-year-old Mensing will be the first to step forward should Accies be awarded another penalty against Hibs this weekend, well aware that Billy Reid's side, anchored to the bottom of the SPL table, badly need the victory. The visit of Colin Calderwood's team marks the start of a vital spell for the Lanarkshire club with five of their next six games coming at home, Celtic, Aberdeen, Motherwell and then Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Cup all following the Hibees.

But with only five points separating Hamilton from eighth-placed Hibs, Mensing insisted Saturday's match - and the visit from struggling Aberdeen, just two goals better off, in what will be the final game of 2010 - is crucial to Accies' hopes of clawing away from the relegation spot.

The German-born star said: "The table doesn't lie, our results haven't been good enough but I think if you had been at a lot of our games you'd say we've been a bit unfortunate.

"We've been playing well at times but maybe individual mistakes all over have cost us a lot of points.

"The main thing, though, is that while we have been on a bad run we haven't become detached at the bottom of the table and that's a massive positive for us. Hopefully we can get a few results together and get on a good run.

"At the moment, it's irrelevant how we play, what we need are points on the board and, more importantly, from the games in which we are playing the teams immediately around us.

"If we do that then, whichever way you look at it, we'll pull ourselves closer to them or drag them down towards us although if we can put together a run then, hopefully, we'd find ourselves leapfrogging a couple."

Given the promixity of Hibs and those two victories at New Douglas Park last season, the Edinburgh club most certainly find themselves in Accies' sights, a 1-1 draw at Easter Road earlier this season before John Hughes' departure suggesting a somewhat fraught afternoon for Calderwood as he embarks on his own mission of steering his new side to a more respectable position.

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While Mensing's assertion that the league table doesn't lie applies equally to Hibs, the former MK Dons, Stenhousemuir, Clyde, St Johnstone and Motherwell star admitted to being surprised at seeing a team which finished fourth last season languishing much further down the rankings.

And, he predicted, it won't be long before Hibs begin to climb although, obviously, he and his team-mates have their fingers firmly crossed that won't start happening until after this weekend.

He said: "For whatever reason it's just not been happening for Hibs this season, they've not been producing the goods. But I am certain they will pick up and finish in a far more respectable position.

"A club of Hibs' stature with the support they have and the quality of players within their squad should, in my opinion, be in the top four."

Hibs' leading scorer Derek Riordan, pictured left, naturally, was pinpointed as the leading danger by Mensing who recalled how the waif-like striker claimed his first goal for Hibs at New Douglas Park following his return from an unhappy spell with Celtic.

He said: "Riordan on his day is a class player, that's clear to everyone. The big threat for any team is that he can be having a very quiet game and then suddenly the ball is in the back of your net.

"His goal that day was typical Riordan.

"He didn't seem to have done much after he came on as a substitute but when he got the ball you just knew what he was going to do, put it in the top corner.

"He's just got that ability, to suddenly stick one in the top bin from 20, 25 or 30 yards.

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"But it's not just about him, Hibs have plenty of other good players and, regardless of where they are in the table at the moment, I feel they are in a false position."

If Riordan is Hibs' not-so-secret weapon, Mensing reckons Hamilton have their own in Dutch striker Nigel Hasselbaink, nephew of former Chelsea and Leeds United ace Jimmy Floyd, who proved to be a thorn in the flesh of Easter Road defenders Sol Bamba and Francis Dickoh.

Although standing, in Mensing's estimation, "5ft and a few inches" tall, Hasselbaink's tiny frame shouldn't fool anyone, as the youngster has already proved.

Mensing said: "I think we probably all thought the same when we first clapped eyes on him, an unkown prospect coming into training.

"He's just turned 20 so he is still pretty raw and with a bit of a way to go.

"But he has tremendous energy and determination and for someone so small he's deceptively strong, he's certainly not lacking in that department, he can more than hold his own.

"Nigel is also as fast as anything and when you play against him for the first time, as Bamba and Dickoh probably discovered, he's unbelievably quick and strong for someone of his stature, not what you expect at all.

"He's similar to his uncle in that respect, small, fast and very strong but Nigel has also had to live with being compared to Jimmy Floyd which must be difficult for any young player.

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"But if he does half as well as him then, I am sure, he can look forward to a very successful career."