Are we really already in to the 2nd half of February? When I sat down to start thinking about what my main topics were going to be for this entry of my blog, I quickly checked the date of my last entry and couldn’t believe it was the 30th December. This season really is flying by (although I’m told that a lot to do with getting older!)
Anyway, I left my last blog by convincing myself that 2016 had been a very good year, which ultimately it was. But I think at that point I was trying to give myself a boost for all things Hibs as we’d just fallen 2pts behind Dundee Utd in the race for the title. Little was I to know that we were going to put in such a convincing performance against that very team a week later, after a good away win against Falkirk. And as we continued to chip away with solid results, Dundee Utd continued to stutter, to the point where we built up an 8pt lead at the top. I personally think our results over that period really were excellent. We had a home game against the team that were battling us for the title, and who we hadn’t beaten in 2 previous games, alongside away games to Falkirk, Dumbarton and Queen Of The South. You win the league over the course of the season, but I think when the dust settles on this season and we do win the league, then it will be the January results for both us and Dundee Utd which will prove to have been absolutely pivotal.
January was also an interesting month as it was the month we were expecting to see 3 or 4 new faces added to the team. It started strongly from that point of view, with Chris Humphrey being added from Preston very quickly, and we were mostly delighted with that as we had all been crying out for more pace and width which is exactly what we were expecting from Humphrey. More on that shortly! As the month went on, we continued to get linked to various names and had several players on trial. We were all quickly checking google and YouTube to find out what Dylan Connolly, Fausto Rossi, Enzo Reale, Nikolai Alho and Aaron Kovar (amongst others) were all about, as well as seeing recognised names such as Danny Swanson, Peter Pawlett, Stevie May, and Ryan Christie all get linked with the club. We had the long running Kris Commons saga, and to top it all off, we nearly ended the window by signing the legend that is Anthony Stokes (although most Elvis impersonators won’t agree). There was even the drama of us pretty much having the Stirling Albion superstar Dylan Bikey all signed up, only for Hearts to announce him that same day. It was amazing how quickly he went from being a potential superstar to being League 2 rubbish amongst the Hibs support!!
And yet after all those linked names, all we got added to Humphrey was 2 short term goalkeeper deals. Straight away there were 2 arguments going – we should have enough to win this league, or, if we don’t win this league it will be down to the business done in January. Now I probably agreed with both those statements. I think we all like to be excited by new signings, and Lennon had said himself that he felt the squad was a bit thin. To this day we’re still seeing trialists brought in, but it seems that we will no longer just be adding players to the squad just for the sake of it like days of old. I do think our transfer business as a whole has been average at best during Lennons 2 transfer windows. I’m not sure if we have as much ability in the squad as we had this time last year, but we probably have a bit more steel about us. That’s probably a lot down to our experiences of last season though.
Now back to Chris Humphrey. I was delighted when he signed, and even more delighted after his first 45 minutes in a Hibs shirt, when the likes of him and Boyle destroyed Dundee Utd. But if truth be told, he’s been pretty much anonymous since then. Now I dunno if he’s been struggling for fitness, but in the recent game against Ayr, he was simply a waste of a jersey. He looked slow (was beaten in a sprint by former Hibee Paul Cairney, which says a LOT) low in confidence, and generally disinterested. He was rightly taken off at half time, and we did improve in the second half of that game. Now I’m hoping this is just a blip. Having a fit, interested Humphrey like the one that played in the first half against Utd could be a vital ingredient to our squad in the next 3 months. More of the same from the Ayr game, and I doubt we’ll see much more of him.
That Ayr game was indeed disappointing all round. Especially as we all got home in time to see Dundee Utd thump Raith 3-0 and close the gap to 6pts. We all worried beforehand that the players might have had another certain game on their mind (as most of the fans certainly did) and it did seem to be the case. The defending for the first goal was poor, and the rest of that first half performance was one of the worst I’ve seen in a long while. When you look back at that type of game, you realise that actually, on another day you would have won it by 3 or 4 goals, as we certainly created the chances to do just that, but in the heat of the game its easy to get frustrated when we look devoid of ideas.
6pts suddenly becomes a bit of a tricky gap, especially when we still have another trip to Tannadice to come, BUT, last weekends Falkirk victory against Dundee Utd was a welcome result for us (and I won’t say that very often regarding a Peter Houston team getting a win I can assure you) and now we have a great chance this weekend to open up the gap to 9 points as we play our game in hand against Raith Rovers. The game being John Hughes first in charge certainly will add to the story of the day, but you’ve got to think that we should have enough to get the 3 points. Based on recent away games, a 1-0 win would probably be a good bet. Even if we do only go into the game with only one fit centre half.
And finally, let’s look at that game that’s been at the front of all Edinburgh football fans minds for the last few weeks, the Scottish Cup Derby.
It’s been an interesting few weeks since the draw was made. Initially we didn’t know if we were going to be playing Hearts or Raith, and to be fair to Raith they certainly kept the tie interesting. Their second half performance in the first game probably was deserved of winning the whole tie, but it wasn’t to be and so the Edinburgh Derby frenzy began. Initially I was delighted with it. These are the games you look forward to, but I’ll be honest, as the game got closer, I got more nervous about it. We saw Hearts smash Rangers and then stroll to victory against Motherwell. I kept telling myself that Rangers had gifted them 4 goals and the Motherwell game was even until the dodgy sending off, but I read a lot about Hearts new superstars, and you do start to believe it.
I’ve been pretty critical of Lennon at times since he came in, but I have to say, he used his big match experience and got his tactics absolutely bang on last Sunday. Ok, the game wasn’t pretty, but that pitch was awful, so Lennon used his “sturdier” players to his advantage, and made sure players like world class international superstar Alexandros Tziolis were constantly under pressure. Grant Holt played the game exactly as you would hope he would and Marvin Bartley gave a VERY Bartley-esque performance. He was simply outstanding and completely bossed the middle of the park. It will be interesting to see how we line up in the replay, seeing as the pitch is bigger and better quality, but I have a feeling we may well go out with similar tactics and look to stifle Hearts ball players. Theres no doubt that if the likes of Walker, Nicholson, Djoum and Goncalves are given room, then they have the ability to cause damage, so Lennon may look to keep it tight and then hope that the likes of McGinn, Keatings & Cummings can nick a goal and get us through to a home Quarter final tie against Ayr.
The real man of the match for me tho was the Hibs fans. The fallout from Hearts fans since the match has been simply hilarious. Lets get some things clear. They have spent YEAR lording it over us. They loved the fact that we could not seem to win that Scottish Cup, and the fact of that gave them a number of songs. Last Season, the fact we came back from 2-0 down and went on to win the cup is a HUGE bugbear of theirs. While they keep on telling us it will never match beating your rivals 5-1 in a final, deep down they KNOW that that result from 2012 really doesn’t bother us any more. We broke that 114 streak, and got to beat them in the process, after being 2 goals down, while being a division below. Hibs fans showed up on Sunday with 2 aims – getting behind our cup winners and ramming it down their throats that we won the cup. From 9am the Pubs around the Murrayfield area were absolutely bouncing with Hibs fans waving flags and inflatable trophies. This continued into the stadium, and as the Hibs fans got louder and louder as the game went on, the Hearts fans slumped further into their seats, knowing they had very little to sing back at us, occasionally flashing a 5-1 sign to try and feel better, but knowing inside that it had no impact on a single Hibs fan that caught a glimpse of them doing it.
That cup win has introduced several new songs to the Hibs fans songbook – We are hibs (ram yer 1902) along with songs about Darren Mcgregor, a magic hat, Andy Halliday, Anthony Stokes, and of course, Hibs trying to make it 2 in a row!! Meanwhile on the pink side of the city, the equivalent songbook has been greatly reduced. And this hurts them. When the final whistle went, the Hibs fans decided to keep on serenading the Hearts fans until every one of them had left the stadium, as the Hibbies knew that it was really killing their rivals. Since then we’ve seen them accuse Hibs fans of celebrating a draw. Nah guys, we were winding you up, and its clearly worked. So Hibees, lets get these trophies along to Easter Road on Wednesday, and lets yet again remind them that they were 2 nil up and they effed it up, then Hibs went on to lift the cup!! GGTTH