Sitting here writing this the day after losing to Ross County, my emotions have run through the whole spectrum, but I’m calm now and able to offer up my take on the game.
The absence of Ryan Porteous, due to suspension, meant just one change to the starting eleven that had put the Rangers to the sword last Sunday, Darren McGregor stepping to partner Paul Hanlon and Paul McGinn in our back three.
Given the distance involved and the match being on a Wednesday night it was great to see a decent number of fans had made the journey but ultimately, we would all leave the ground disappointed and some sharing that emotion with anger at what they’d just watched. As fans, we were on a high after last Sunday’s winning performance against the Rangers but that high was withering away as each minute of the game passed.
The first ten minutes were a bit of a non event with a corner to each the only real events of note. Soon after, the first real chance arrived but Boyle’s cross led to Nisbet heading his attempt straight at the keeper. Moments later, Cadden picked out the unmarked Nisbet in the box, but the striker’s headed attempt was poor and sailed harmlessly past a post. Kevin’s disappointment grew a few minutes later when he was booked for a high footed challenge and his frustration increased when later a Ross County player escaped even conceding a free kick for a similar challenge on Josh Campbell. Referee Gavin Duncan was infuriating the traveling support by awarding numerous free kicks to the home side whilst ignoring similar challenges when made on a Hibs player.
Jordan White was using his physical presence well and managed to get a header on goal, but the ball flew wide when he really should have scored, having eluded his marker some ten yards from goal. Around the half hour mark Hibs came close to opening the scoring after Boyle’s mazy run allowed him to pick out Cadden on the right wing. Cadden’s low ball into the box was met by Paul Hanlon but his effort struck the outside of the post. Next, Randall was booked for dragging down an opponent in full flight. No attempt to play the ball and in such instances, I feel a yellow is not a hard enough punishment.
With half time approaching I felt we were lucky not to concede a penalty when Doig bundled Hungbo to the ground inside the area, but Gavin Duncan said no, perhaps influenced by the fact that Hungbo had shown already that he was happy to fall over when challenged. If we rode our luck with that, Jordan Tillson did the same when a shocking two footed tackle right in front of the technical area failed to produce the red card the challenge merited.
County started the second half on the front foot, and we took a while to get going before Cadden found Boyle, but the latter saw his attempt saved by Maynard-Brewer in the home goal. Nisbet was next to try his luck, but the keeper was up to the challenge. Nisbet again was set up by Campbell but shot straight at the keeper. I’ll be honest and say that I felt Hibs were building up to making a breakthrough but that all changed with about twenty minutes left.
A bookable but unpunished challenge by Tillson should have meant a second yellow but it was not forthcoming and almost immediately he was subbed off with Cancola taking his place. Just past the hour mark, clever play allowed Cadden to set up Nisbet, but the striker could only shoot straight at the keeper when either side of Maynard-Brewer would surely have resulted in a goal. Five minutes later, Nisbet was withdrawn and looked none too pleased about that as Christian Doidge took his place.
On seventy two minutes, Blair Spittal replaced Regan Charles-Cook and made an immediate impact. A low ball into the box was missed by everyone and rolled in to the net at the far post. It was a shocker of a goal to concede and meant Hibs now had to chase the game if they were to avoid defeat. Minutes later, Hanlon was a bit short with a pass back and as Macey raced from his goal, he made a real mess of clearing the danger. His clearance landed at the feet of Hungbo some twenty five yards out and with Macey in no man’s land the Ross County player lifted the ball over him but at the same time lifted the ball over the bar when a goal looked certain.
Jack Ross tried shake things up a bit by replacing Campbell and Doig with Allan and Gullan, but the next thing of note was the dismissal of Doidge with a straight red card. On the night I felt it harsh because Doidge looked to be trying to play the ball forward and his high foot caught Cancola. I’ve seen it since and yes, his foot was high, but Doidge was now falling backwards off balance and that caused an instinctive reaction to straighten the leg that wasn’t on the ground. Green tinted glasses perhaps but I feel there is some merit to my argument.
With Hibs in panic mode, Spittal was afforded another opportunity to score but with only Macey to beat, his shot sailed high over the bar. Next, Hanlon was weak in a challenge and that allowed Harry Clarke to run in on goal but his effort from about fifteen yards was well saved by Macey down to his left.
At the final whistle, a crowd of players were surrounding the referee, amongst them was Paul Hanlon who, as captain, was presumably airing some grievances but Martin Boyle joined the debate, pointed a finger at Gavin Duncan and presumably said something the ref wasn’t prepared to tolerate, prompting a straight red card for Boyler.
Macey – At the game I wondered if he could have done better for the goal but having watched the highlights, I think he’s worried that Jordan White is going to get a touch and reacted accordingly. His clearance to Hungbo was a shocker but he did make a couple of good late saves to help avoid a heavier defeat.
McGinn – I reckon Paul had a decent enough game and dealt relatively well with the tricky Hungbo. The goal came from his side of the box but it’s Cadden and not McGinn who fails to stop the cross coming in.
McGregor – In all the years I’ve watched Daz playing for Hibs I’ve never seen him bullied as much as he was by Jordan White. Winning headers is a big strength of Daz, but he didn’t win many during this game.
Hanlon – After last Sunday’s fantastic performance, Paul was not great in this game. A couple of dodgy passbacks and a couple of weak challenges could have been very costly.
Cadden – For me he had a mixed bag of a performance. For every decent cross he put in there was another that was poor, overhit or struck the first man. To his credit, he did provide Nisbet, twice, and Hanlon with very good opportunities.
Doyle-Hayes – I don’t think he did much wrong and he certainly put in a shift.
Campbell – It was noticeable to me that Josh was in the Ross County box more than any of our other midfield players. Perhaps not as impressive as he was against the Rangers, he did all that was asked of him.
Newell – Joe was involved plenty but didn’t really make an important contribution to our midfield unless you count his impressive Liam Craig impersonation of being in the referee’s ear throughout.
Doig – Got forward plenty but didn’t really make a positive impact on the game.
Boyle – Fouled as always but not as often as usual, he’s let us, himself and the club down by getting that red card.
Nisbet – Kevin had three or four decent chances and didn’t take any of them. It wasn’t working for him and so Jack Ross made the change that seemed to infuriate Nisbet as he left the field.
Doidge – Christian is not the sort of player that would follow through on a challenge and I’m sticking to my interpretation of that event, green glasses on or off.
Allan – It pains me to say it, but Scotty is a shadow of his former self just now. His attempted drag back so near to our eighteen yard box was ridiculous to say the least. Still love him though.
Gullan – Coming on when we were down to ten men and losing our shape and discipline, Jamie had little chance to shine.
Jack Ross – The feel good factor of beating the Rangers didn’t last very long and on the back of five straight defeats in the league, the concern as to his role in that is genuine. It seems if we concede the first goal we rarely draw level.
The referee – Gavin Duncan – we didn’t lose because of him but he did influence our contribution to the game with a string of poor/non decisions.
Hard to argue with much of it.
A total cluster**** after the goal culminating in Boyler making a bloody fool of himself.
0 points and 2 suspensions for Saturdays important game was beyond our wildest nightmares.
Upside - no injuries and gives Doidge another 10 days to get fitter.
Thanks John, bad night all round but all part of the joys of supporting Hibs. I remember the season we lost our 1st 8 league games then a couple of months later we scored 4 in the Nou Camp, it was ever thus. Just a couple of thoughts. The Macey sclaff, IMO can only be down to him, firstly he was slow to come for the passback but he still had 3 or 4 yards to spare when he got there. The clearance was awful. The weak Hanlon tackle allowing Clarke through was actually Scott Allan getting caught in possession. A midfield flick had earlier bounced through Paul's legs allowing Spittal through, luckily he blew it.
Thanks as ever!