I’ve spent the morning with a wee ditty buzzing round my head that I saw on YouTube on Monday. It’s to the tune of the Carnival De Paris song that us Hibs fans sing, except this version ends, Efe Ambrose, Efe Ambrose, Efe Ambrose Ballon D’or. I’ve tried my best to block it out, but Just like “We Are Hibs” after the Edinburgh Derby, this one is stuck in my head for a good wee while yet I imagine.
Before the Derby replay, I talked about how well we battled in the first game and how I had a feeling we would go with a similar starting line-up in the replay to give Hearts a battle, before maybe releasing some pace later in the game. How wrong was I!? We saw a similar setup to the Dundee Utd game at the start of January with the plan of hitting Hearts in the wings, except this time we gave up some space to Hearts (in theory) in the middle of the park, and went with the battering ram that is Grant Holt alongside Jason up front. It worked to a tee, although after 2 minutes I thought, oh here we go again, as we lost Chris Humphrey to injury and he was replaced by the much maligned Andrew Shinnie. Lennon and the team took it in their stride with Boyle switching to the right and Shinnie playing on the left but drifting in regularly to join the other central midfielders. Boyle absolutely roasted Sowah for the first 30 minutes in particular. Sowah just couldn’t get to grips with Boyle’s “knock and run” technique, and it was great to watch, while on the other side, I feel Shinnie had his best performance in a Hibs shirt.
There is very little of the game to be critical of. From pre-kick off, the Hibs fans were magnificent, and from the first whistle, every player gave their all, feeding from the crowd and giving them a performance to be proud of. A lot had been made in the buildup to how Hearts were gonna benefit from our pitch (it has grass on it for a start), and players like Goncalves were very vocal in how they were now ready for us after getting the measure of us in the first game. They now knew how fast the game would be played at, and mainly, they knew that we were nothing but a physical team. Oh really??? Hibs fans have long been critical of our own players shouting their mouths off before big games, only to watch it come back to bite them, so it was nice to see it reversed for once. I said previously that I had believed the hype slightly around players like Tziolis, Hughes, Goncalves. I was more relaxed about the replay but still felt that they had players that could hurt us, but in all honesty, the likes of Tziolis and Martin really did not seem to learn from the first game. The amount of time they expected on the ball was unreal, and even although we only had 2 central midfielders against Hearts 3, you would have thought that it was US that had the numerical advantage in there rather than them. And as for Goncalves, well our centre halves had him for breakfast on the whole, and he is going to have to learn to reign in his frustration as he is very petulant.
Anyway, I don’t want to dwell to much on Hearts’ shortcomings as that would take away from how well we played. I think most of the team had a shout to be man of the match, and Lennon got things bang on again. I have been critical of Lennon at points in the season, but when it has come to the big games, so far he has got things absolutely spot on.
At half time I had all types of things running through my head, things that were probably shared by a number of hibs fans. “we were 2-0 down at half time last season. History reversed?”. Well if I was rational about it, even at 2-0 down last season, we’d probably been the better team. This year at 2-0 up, we had absolutely destroyed them. The 3rd was a huge sigh of relief, but when they got the penalty, there was a few minutes of trepidation on my part, but that soon subsided (slightly) when I realised how comfortable we were. My biggest issue with the game was that we never took 5 or 6 off them. Whenever they play well, they’ll get 6 chances and score 3, 4 or 5 of them. Whenever we play well against them, we’ll tend to score 1 or 2 (or none). In fact, last Wednesday was the first time we’d scored more than 2 goals in a win against them since the 6-2 game. Typical really.
And then we were all brought back down to earth against Dunfermline on Saturday. Although I feel we’ve managed to shake this “Hibsed it” label since 21/05/16, I do think there’s still a lot of fans that get that “typical Hibs” feeling. Beat Hearts but draw with Dunfermline and Raith. I thought we started great – came flying out the blocks in fact, and when we went 2-0 up you felt it could be a cricket score. Then Sir David makes a daft mistake at the back to let them back in the game, and then if we’re honest, it was pretty one sided from Dunfermline’s point of view. I thought they played well, and to be honest, it felt like we stole a point. So while it may be disappointing that we again missed an opportunity to stretch the lead at the top, it probably really was a point gained, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at Full time. Shout out to Ofir Marciano tho, who was superb. Some of his saves were simply top class, and definitely kept us in the game.
And that takes us to tonight. Away to St Mirren. A team that now find themselves 8 points adrift at the bottom of the league even although they seem to have hit a wee bit of form. The one thing to our advantage is, they won’t be able to play for a draw tonight. They desperately need the points so will need to push for a win. That could suit us to the ground.
I know we keep saying that EVERY game is now huge, and its true, but the next 2 games will show us if its going to be a comfortable end to the season or a fight to the death. Win tonight and don’t lose to Utd and I think that should be that. 10pts with 10 games left (for Utd) leaves them just too much to do. Draw tonight and lose next week and its 5pts with them having a game in hand. Far too close for comfort. Both teams will still drop points so if we get the win and win/draw from the next 2 games, there will just not be enough games left for anyone to catch us.
But of course the biggest talking point leading into tonights games is the players who could play at centre half for us. Hibs today confirmed the emergency loan signing of Efe Ambrose, and the short term signing of Brian McLean. Now Hibs have received a LOT of flak for the Ambrose signing in particular, due it it being on this confusingly named “emergency loan”. It’s a shame so many folk are happy to be ignorant on subjects and carry on with their bashing of people, clubs, etc, when a wee bit of research would explain things. So an emergency loan does NOT need to be an emergency. It doesn’t need to be approved by the SPFL, and the club doesn’t need to explain WHY they are signing a certain player in a certain position. From the Scottish Championship down, clubs are allowed to make 2 emergency loan signings outside the window as long as they haven’t already had 5 loan signings from other Scottish clubs, and haven’t already had 2 over 21 signings on loan from other Scottish Clubs. So what Hibs have done is perfectly within the rules. Yes they’ve used their contacts and seen Commons and Ambrose brought in as these 2 emergency loans, players that are a much higher standard than other Championship teams could have hoped to bring in in these circumstances. And that seems to be the real bugbear amongst other fans. Maybe it is a silly ruling, but it was probably created without the likes of Hibs, Hearts, Rangers, Dundee Utd in mind. Now that these clubs have been in this division and Hibs in particular have taken full advantage of the ruling, maybe the ruling will be adjusted so that its purely for genuine emergencies. Although I would argue that there is a genuine defensive crisis at Hibs this week with all 4 senior centre halves unavailable for the Cup game on Saturday, so the Ambrose signing may well have been ratified anyway!!
What I do find hilarious is that the same fans that are bleating that Hibs are flouting the rules, are then faux laughing at how terrible the signing of Efe Ambrose is. Yes, the same Efe Ambrose that’s played over 120 times for the best team in the country, has over 50 caps for Nigeria and has won the African Nations Cup. There’s no doubting that he’s made a few high profile errors, but I feel he was made a bit of a scapegoat at Celtic and I’m comfortable that he will be a MORE than adequate addition for the remainder of the season. If folk really think he’s that bad, why on earth are they that upset that we’ve signed him. I’ve even seen Falkirk fans say that their title challenge is now back on. REALLY?????
And the final thing I want to mention is… THAT season ticket promotional video. I made the error of quickly watching the video just before I went to drive away from Tesco car park. What a mistake that was. I needed the windscreen wipers on for my eyes. Yet another fantastic piece of promo from Hibs. The last few years they have got them absolutely spot on. I have to admit tho, it took me 2 or 3 watches before I clicked as to what the main guy in the video got up to on the night of the cup final! Shame on Him! There was singing & drinking to do, and the recording of the full match to be watched!!!