Paul shows he's Keane to improve at Hibs

GETTING up close and personal with Robbie Keane wasn't enough for Paul Hanlon, the Hibs kid revealing he'll settle down this week to watch a DVD of the on-loan Celtic striker's latest 90 minutes for the Hoops.

Much as he admires the Republic of Ireland hitman, who took his tally for Neil Lennon's side to 13 as he helped Celtic snatch a last-gasp victory over Hibs, Hanlon will be paying more attention to his own performance than that of the Spurs star.

For it is that attention to detail which, he insisted, can only help him achieve his full potential with boss John Hughes eyeing the 20-year-old as a central figure at the heart of Hibs' defence for years to come.

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Although Hanlon has been viewed by many as a left-back, making a surprise debut in that position as a 17-year-old in what was former boss Mixu Paatelainen's first match in charge of Hibs, it is as a centre-back, according to Hughes, where his future lies.

As such, Hanlon's credentials were given the closest of examinations by Keane, the youngster turning in a performance which Hughes described as "immense" despite the fact the Irish ace opened the scoring after just four minutes.

In that instant, claimed Hanlon, Keane displayed all the cunning and awareness which has made him one of the game's most feared strikers as he simply slowed his run as others rushed into the six-yard box anticipating Aiden McGeady's low cross, creating the half-yard needed to dispatch the ball beyond Hibs goalkeeper Graham Stack.

Hanlon said: "Keane is a top-class player, you have to be aware of what he is doing every second of the match.

"His movement asks questions all the time, he takes a step back when you expect him to go in but, if you step out too far, he's likely to spin in behind you and you won't catch him and so on.

"Top-class strikers know where the space is, that's how they get the number of goals they do."

However, Hanlon, who experienced the nightmare of trying to mark Barcelona's Lionel Messi when the Spanish giants faced Hibs in a pre-season friendly at Murrayfield a couple of years ago, insisted he'd treated Keane as he would any other opponent.

Agreeing that sometimes the danger for a youngster was "playing the name" rather than the player himself, he said: "No matter who you are playing it is just another player, you have to react to what they do.

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"Throughout the 90 minutes you have to concentrate on playing your own game and not who you are playing against and, to be honest, I felt Sol Bamba and I did quite well. Of course, it is hard against the likes of Messi and Keane but you have to get on with it, do your best and learn from the experience.

"At Easter Road we can get a DVD of a match run off if we want and I'll most likely ask for one of Celtic Park, not only to see what Keane did here and there but what I did.

"You have to do everything you can to try to become a better player."

Hanlon admitted he was surprised to have even started the match at Celtic Park having missed Hibs' previous six games, his battle to overcome a pelvic problem having prevented him training until barely 48 hours before Saturday's 12.15 kick-off.

He said: "I'd only started training on the Thursday as I'd needed as much rest as possible while doing exercises to strengthen the area which had been causing me a problem.

"I didn't know I was playing until that morning although I was obviously delighted the gaffer put me back in.

"I was also glad to get through the full game given I'd been out since the middle of last month and, although I was tired in the last ten minutes, it was just a case of getting through it." The only disappointment, naturally, was the final scoreline, Marc Antoine-Fortune and substitute Morten Rasmussen clinching the points for Celtic after a superb strike from Derek Riordan and Anthony Stokes' 20th goal of the season, courtesy of the penalty spot, had seemingly put Hughes' players on course for a second win of the season at Parkhead. Hanlon admitted there was a touch of deja vu, Fortune having netted for Celtic after only five minutes into Hibs' previous visit to the east end of Glasgow in January only for Stokes to equalise before Danny Galbraith grabbed a last-minute winner.

He said: "It looked as if, with only ten minutes to go, we were going to do it again. You try not to think about that as a player, you just concentrate on getting the job done, so it was bitterly disappointing having been 2-1 up to come away with nothing.

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"You could sense the mood swing among the Celtic fans when they equalised, the place had been very quiet up to that point which was how we'd wanted it to be. We'd said when we went in level at half-time that we had to try to keep it that way or even get ourselves in front which we managed to do.

"You could hardly hear the Celtic fans but when Fortune scored the whole place lifted and, unfortunately for us, we weren't able to hold on for a draw."

Even a point, Hanlon agreed, would have been another step towards securing fourth place and a guaranteed spot in next season's Europa League after rivals Motherwell and Hearts went down the following day to Dundee United and Rangers respectively.

But, he insisted, he and his team-mates remain in the driving seat, two points ahead of Motherwell and six in front of Hearts with only four games to go although Hibs have yet to face both those sides.

He said: "Fourth place is very much on, we've got some tough games to play but we feel that we are more than capable of winning them, that's the mindset we need going into every match."