Tag Archives: championship

Hibs: The Last Three Years – Part One

I wasn’t sure what to write about given that I wasn’t in Ayr on Saturday and haven’t really seen much footage of it.  It was a good win.  A good shut out for Ross Laidlaw and the team.  It’s also landed us on 70 points, not Hearts nor Rangers have 70 points this season.  Only Livingston (78) and Celtic (94) have more points than us across the leagues.  Pretty good.  Aberdeen could reach it but no one else will.

Anyway, I have a strange feeling at the moment.  While delighted to be receiving the Championship Trophy on Saturday coming, I’ve also got a little sense of loss.

It’s nothing to do with going out in the semi of the cup.  I coped with that.  As most of us did.  It’s more to do with feeling like we’ve just said goodbye to three incredible years.  We’re moving on and a new chapter is opening.

The relegation was a sore day.  A very sore one.  On a day when Malpas tried to fight with fans in the crowd and Hibs threw away a two goal advantage at home.  It was just awful.  A truly devastating day in the history of this beautiful club.

Then there came hope.  Leeann Dempster could have changed her mind about coming to the club, we weren’t in the prem any more and she could have walked away.  She didn’t, she saw there was work to be done and I’m glad she wanted to take on the task.

Picking Alan Stubbs was a good decision.  I glance at my replica Scottish Cup almost every day and thank Leeann for not landing us with Ian Cathro.  We’d have probably been in league two by now if she had.

There was a feeling amongst Hibs fans that this might just be the kick up the arse we needed.  We DID need to rebuild and we did HAVE to have a good look at ourselves.  We’d partied about Hearts getting relegated yet we’d slipped down with them.  Time to get the mirror out and have a good look at ourselves.

We had competition in the league.  Hearts had been relegated as well and Rangers were floating about.  In my heart I wanted us to go straight back up but in my head I was saying we might not.  We had to rebuild literally from scratch.  It would have been a fairytale to have gone straight back up but it didn’t happen.

It was a season of mixed fortunes.  Some memorable wins over Rangers including the 4-0 win at Easter Road Christmas present on the 27th of December.  Wins over Hearts as well.  Silly losses to Queen of the South and Raith Rovers.  Stubbs was doing well.  He’d brought in our current captain, Sir David Gray, Fraser Fyvie and Liam Fontaine who are still with us as well as Malonga, Farid el Alagui and Scott Allan.  Malonga did well but didn’t settle properly although has the club in his heart.  Farid was unlucky with his injury and Scott Allan was great for us, would have flourished with us but chose the money and headed along the M8 to Celtic.

His Celtic career never took off and he’s out on loan to relegated Rotherham.  If ever a footballer chose to finish his own career it would be him.  Too big for Championship Hibs.  Look at us now, you probably should have stayed, Scott.  Of course, I don’t blame him entirely, he just had the wrong advice.  A money hungry agent, no doubt.

We finished that season second in the Championship.  Disappointing? Yes.  We went through the playoff and lost.  Dreadful.  Yet we’d gotten to the quarter final of the League Cup and the semi final of the Scottish Cup.  Was it really that bad a season? We’d come a long way under Alan Stubbs.  We couldn’t really complain about that.

Season 2015/2016 was a biggie.  Liam Craig moved on, the captain hadn’t impressed.  Malonga was on his way.

The in door opened and James Keatings crossed the city to join us, Martin Boyle joined us on a contract, Marvin Bartley arrived from Leyton Orient, John McGinn came to us from St Mirren and we welcomed him with open arms, Dylan McGeouch made the move from Celtic and then the signing of Darren McGregor.  Life long Hibs fan, he’d been released from Rangers.  We brought him home.  He belonged at Easter Road.

Just some of the amazing deals that would be done that season.  Stubbs was preparing for a huge season.

There were some stupid losses in the league that season.  A 2-1 defeat at Dumbarton right at the start of the season.  A 1-0 defeat at Ibrox not long after, that should have been our game.

We picked up Liam Henderson on loan from Celtic in August and he would be ours for the season.

For the second season running we went out the challenge cup early but that wasn’t our focus.  Our focus was promotion but somehow, as we focussed on that we ended up going on two cup runs, the League and the Scottish.

On that run we punted teams from all leagues aside.  Hearts would have us at Tynecastle and then go two nil up in the Scottish.  Paul Hanlon and Jason Cummings would take the party back to Easter Road where Jason would win the tie.

We would be in the League Cup Final only to be defeated 2-1 by Ross County.  Annoying, yes.

Our league performances faltered and closing in to the Scottish Cup semi we lost our keeper to an apprent contact lens ban.  We were stuck with a goalkeeping nightmare.  Until Conrad Logan hit the radar.  Suffered a bad injury, unfit but available, Alan Stubbs said yes.

How we love that Stubbsy said yes.  Clearly unfit, Logan took to the Hampden pitch for the semi final against Dundee United.  He was mocked.

What Conrad Logan showed was that you can be unfit but if you have a clear footballing mind you can win.  He was like a cat around his goal. He had a keepers eye and he showed that in the penalties. He was class in a fairly large glass.  Hibs were in the final.

Hibs hadn’t been able to account for themselves in the league and finished third, another year in the Championship.  However, we were in the Scottish Cup Final against new promoted Rangers.  We knew how to beat them.  We just had to do it in this game.

Anthony Stokes, a loan player from Celtic since January, had failed to woo me in five months.  I could see no reason why this would change on the 21st of May 2016.

On that sunny day in May, almost a year ago, Stokes ran out at Hampden with one clear goal in mind – Beat Rangers.  It was written all over him and it leaked out to his team-mates.  Nothing showed more intent than his two goals, the first at three minutes and his second to level the team as they’d gone behind to Rangers.  2-2 at eighty minutes.  It was headed for extra time.

Then it happened.  At 90+2 Liam Henderson drifted in a corner that club captain, David Gray headed into the net.  Hibs were on the brink of history.

A footballing miracle.  Hibs had dumped that 114-year hoodoo. We’d won the Scottish Cup.  At last, at last, at last.

Hibs fans ran onto the pitch.

 

Red cards and handbags at Tannadice but Hibs win, the league is ours

In all honesty I have no idea where to start with this blog.  After watching Dundee Utd v Hibs I am under no illusions who is the better team (Hibs – natch) but what a game.  What a refereeing disaster.

I’ll admit to nerves going into this game.  Hibs Cup performances of late have been off the park but our leagues games have not been great.  Scrappy, perhaps.

The hope was that Hibs would channel their inner cup into the league on Friday evening and, to be fair, they did.  Cannot argue with that.  Hibs ran out at Tannadice with a win in mind.  Team selection was perfect, for me, and good that Darren McGregor was back in there after his cup suspension last weekend.

Referee Don Robertson started off well but finally lost it.  He started off the game more or less good but as it got more aggressive he lost control.  He was let down by his assistants as well, which doesn’t help.  He booked David Gray after missing a blatant yellow on Grant Holt seconds before.  Despite being up with play! He should have given a red card to Dundee United’s Mark Durnan for an elbow to David Gray’s face but despite looking straight at it he failed to pick up on it, and neither did his assistant. Most officials know that David Gray doesn’t go down easily and for him to have travelled before going down says a lot.  In my very humble opinion that was a straight red.

It wasn’t a great performance from Hibs but it was enough.  The gap has opened but we still can’t be complacent because…well, because we are Hibs.  We don’t do easy.  The word Easy doesn’t exist at Hibs or East Mains.  It’s the way it is.  We laaav the challenge really. 😉 We respond to it really.  We’ve some to do but we’ll do it.  We will.

Now Jason.  First yellow for dissent.  Silly really.   Was the ref, Don Robertson, right to give it? Alright, he bounced the ball off the ground and mouthed a bit but would a more experieneced referee just have cautioned him?

Second yellow.  Jason did something that looked like a Superman into the goal and sadly his hand reached the ball before his head.  No idea what was going through his head there.  It’s a Jason thing but if he’d only kept his hand down his nut was connecting with the ball.  It might not have went in but he’d not have went in either!

Jason though.  He has his mad moments.  There is no doubt that Neil Lennon will have told him how, exactly, he feels about that red card.  In covering his card suspension we have Keats and there is no problem for me with Holt and McGinn and, to be fair, the rest of the team clicking in.

As much as many went ‘wtf’ at the red card, Jason scored the goal that won us the game.  It’s difficult to be angry at the lad for long.  He’s playing superb football under Lennon and growing a lot as a footballer.

I wouldn’t say we’re on form in the league but we’ve won this game.  We’ve taken them and won 1-0 so that is a lovely three points for us.  The league is ours to lose! And by God we’ll try haha!

In reality I can’t see Hibs losing the league after defeating Dundee United.  It would take a monumental lack of interest and we don’t have this. Dumbarton at home next on the 18th and then Falkirk on the 25th also at home.  Then Morton at home on the 29th in the rescheduled fixture.  Three  must wins to give us something breathing space.  Falkirk still fancy their chances as do Morton (away there on April 8th).  It would be lovely to be able to go into the Scottish Cup semi final with the league in the bag.

SPFL

Hopefully Efe Ambrose has proven himself to Hibs fans.  The coolest man on the pitch at Tannadice and did his job nicely.  He’s not had any “mishaps” (so far) and I think he’s been a great addition to the team. What’s the meme? Efe little thing is gonna be alright.

I’ve noticed there seems to be something of a seethe going on about Neil Lennon’s connections to Celtic.  The seethe comes from other teams fans.  Not Hibs fans.  Forgive me if I am wrong but part of being a manager/head coach is having connections and Lennon will have many through his time as a player and a manager.  So, yes, if we’ve got injury problems it makes sense to use those connections and bring in decent players.  Doesn’t it? Perhaps the seethe is having a manager whose only connection is his laptop? Who knows? Or a new manager who seems a bit partial to your great rivals?

Anyway, back to Hibs.  It’s in our hands now.  Our fans are a different class at the moment and that is undoubtedly helping the team.  We’re asking them to do a job and they are doing it and we’re doing ours.

GGTTH

 

 

 

 

Cup romance must wait, Hibs need to woo the League

‘Here we go, two in a row’.  It’s got a nice ring about it.  The cup romance is still with us.  We’re still in love with the whole experience.  Having failed to win it in 114-years we now face the fairytale of winning it for the second time.  Oh what a time to be alive.

I don’t like bringing this up but I’m sure every Hibby remembers Sunday the 25th May 2014.  We remember all right.  After an absolute shambles Hibs were relegated from the SPL to the Scottish Championship.  I remember the feeling of being absolutely lost.  I remember the tears running down my cheeks, the scarves flying from above me onto the pitch.  The boos.  I saw other people crying, children and adults.  Old timers too.

The moronic Butcher didn’t step back and look at the damage he’d already done but carried on axing members of our squad before anyone had time to take it all in.  Thankfully he was booted not long after.  Farewell Butcher and Malpas, clown and sideshow act.

Things didn’t just look bleak, they looked finished.  There was a chance Leeann Dempster might not come to Hibs because of the relegation but she stuck true to her word and came in at, in reflection, the perfect bloody time.

It was a truly dreadful time for Hibs and the loyal support.  The Jambos at work were in ecstasy.  Having been mocked by us for all their shenanigans in the weeks prior, they ripped us up.  (Aye that would never come back and haunt you Jambos, shower of dafties).

The weeks to the start of the new season were fraught.  Many, many fans pledged their support simply because of it being the club that they love.  I was one of them.  Bucking Championship but how could I walk away?

In a few shorts weeks we had to appoint a manager and get a team together.  We started the season light on bodies and that did for us.

Look at us now though.  We’re still in the Championship, yes, but look at us.  We’re Scottish Cups winners.  We, as of writing, still are the holders and we will be all the way up to the weekend of April 22/23 and possibly beyond.  In May 2014, the idea of being Scottish Cup winners two years later was just ridiculous.  The idea that a year later, in March 2017, we’d be heading to the semi-final again…that would have seemed ludicrous.

However, the idea that we’d still be in the Championship in 2017 was not even in consideration.  So that we are is a concern and one we can hopefully fix in the next six games.

I say the next six games because that’s the amount of league games we have between now and the semi-final with Aberdeen.  The first is, what could potentially be a toughie, Dundee United at Tannadice.  It is a must win.  In fact that, and the following five, for me, are must wins.  A potential 18 points there.  That would sort the league out and leave us free to concentrate on the semi and then, potentially, the final.

Six games, six weeks to get the head in the right place and win the league.  There’s no need to concentrate on the Cup, we’re there, in the semi.  Falkirk are only 6 points behind us.  We all know Peter Houston will be wanking into a sock about that.  When we face them at Easter Road on the 25th of this month let us be further ahead.  Let’s hope they’ve dropped points and not the other way around.

Stubbs rebuilt us and Lennon has carried that on but even he is a bit puzzled as to the performances of late.  I think everyone is.

A stinking mid-week performance in Paisley hasn’t helped but, to give St Mirren credit, they are playing well and Jack Ross has boosted the side with confidence.  The players clearly believe in him and their performance against Celtic in the first half of the quarter-final at Celtic Park shows just how far they have come in a very short time.  They made Celtic look ordinary and, of course, they went into the tunnel at half time 1-0 up. A lovely goal by Harry Davis.

They didn’t do much wrong in the second half either, only Celtic upped it and the bringing on of Roberts at half time for GMS changed the way they played.  St Mirren should be proud of what they did in that 90 minutes.  Brendan Rodgers said they were the best domestic team Celtic had faced all season.  Take from that what you will rest of the SPL (means you’re crap, Rangers).

Rangers will be over-confident after their 6-0 win over Hamilton at Ibrox.  They’ll believe they can beat Celtic in the semi’s.  Delusion (they call it confidence) is in abundance at the moment.  OK, but they’ve forgotten they make the trip to Celtic Park next Sunday in the league.  Let’s see how that goes.

For me the league must take priority.  Forget the cup now.  Forget all about it.  We’re not even in it.  It’s only the league we must concentrate on.  I have written before that we cannot do another season in this league and I don’t believe we will.  We’re the best team in this league by a country mile and we’re better than some in the SPL as well.  So we should be up there next season and challenging.

I finish this post with a poll.  I’ll vote League with no Cup because going up is the goal but my word, we sort this league out before this semi and this could be a very magical season.

GGTTH

Hibs must make league priority, Twitter has loan meltdown

If there’s one thing that any Hibs fan knows with absolute certainty it’s that if there is a hard way to do something Hibs will pick to do it that way.

The derby cup mauling of the Jambos was only just over a week ago but it seems much longer than that as Hibs seem to have lost their way a bit in the league.  Prior to the cup derby game there was the soul destroying point at Raith which led to Neil Lennon’s heavy criticism of his team. Continue reading

Stubbs and team will look forward and not back

It’s not been the best end to the year for us Hibby’s.  Seventeen game unbeaten run ended by Rangers on Monday, Fraser Fyvie given a two match ban for simulation and dropping to third in the league on goal difference.  Not great and I have to admit, if this had happened any other year it would have killed us.

Not this time though.  It is hard being on a long unbeaten run high and suddenly it comes to a screeching halt.  You literally have to “go again” and I firmly believe that Hibs will do that.  We’ve made too much progress since the ropey start to the season and we cannot let that go to waste.  Certainly Alan Stubbs has no intention of letting the heads go down.

“We move on .. we are not going to be deflected. We have been fantastic, seventeen unbeaten. It was going to happen eventually but I can assure you it is not going to affect us. We have a really good dressing-room so there’s no reason for me to think anything untoward – I won’t let them anyway.” – Alan Stubbs

So we must look at what we have achieved.  The unbeaten run of 17 games.  That’s an achievement in itself.  All credit goes to the coaches and players for achieving that, for coming out every match and giving everything and getting results.  Even achieving them with a couple of poor performances.  Annoying to have this run stopped but there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.  We already know we can do it.

The football has been mostly fantastic.  Passing is accurate, we can score from set pieces and from creation.  Literally anyone in the team has the potential to score so we don’t rely solely on the strikers.  This is a team who know how to play exciting football without using unnecessary tactics, we tackle well, we want the ball we take it.   We’ve also got positivity in the dressing room, something which has been missing from there in a long time.  Stubbs began it in his first season with us and carries it on now.

The proof of that is how the players responded after Monday’s defeat at Ibrox.  Disappointed, yes, but determined to put it behind them and carry on, build up another undefeated streak, score goals – and we do need more goals – and keep the positivity going.

Liam Henderson remains puzzled about what when wrong but insists the team won’t dwell on Monday’s defeat.

“It was a sore one, but it’s finished now. We’ll sit down and try to pin-point what went wrong. I couldn’t put a finger on it, I thought we played well, played some nice football. It was a really open game and I’m sure the neutrals thoroughly enjoyed it.

“We won’t dilly-dally on it, we’ll analyse it, and each of us will see where we can do better and try to improve for the next game.

“We are a strong unit and we’ll bounce back. These things happen in football. You’ll always lose a game, but I believe you learn more from losing than you do from winning. As I said, it was a good experience for me, but losing a game we’d hoped to have won did put a dampener on the day.”

Henderson was also referring to comments made by Rangers Kenny Miller which suggested he felt losing to Rangers would put self-doubt into some Hibs players.  He last played for Hibernian in 2000 and has no knowledge of the current Hibs set up.  Close to retirement, striker Miller has scored ten goals in 40 games in his latest stint at Ibrox.

Liam Henderson isn’t the only player to speak out about how the team are feeling after Monday.  November’s Championship Player of the Month for November, John McGinn, says confidence in the dressing room is not dented.

“If you put it into perspective one defeat in 18 isn’t too bad at all, we just need to try and put a similar run together. Our confidence has not been dented.

“We know it was just a minor blip in what was a really good run. We know we’ve got the players in here that can put together another run like that.”

He also lumped praise on our fans both home and away.
“They have been brilliant all season, they’ve come back in their numbers now and it has really given the team a boost.  The 900 that travelled to Ibrox were in fine voice and I hope they come along on Saturday and bring their pals.”

Take the whole season and look at it. It started badly but we overcame it. We went on a 17 game unbeaten run, firmly closed a gap that looked almost impossible and had Rangers believing the league would be wrapped up by Christmas. Confidence is high, our players are really shining. There’s many hours of football to be played and many points to be had. Let them be ours.

Now we face Raith on Saturday. It’s time for us to give someone a sore one and let’s hope that’s Raith at home in Easter Road. Get the points, get the goals and go again. We’ve lost ONE game since August, the first month of the league season. Let’s get behind the boys on Saturday and bring a pal!

GGTTH!

 

 

Chances lost as Hibs lose at home to Falkirk

An air of disappointment hung over Easter Road yesterday afternoon as the final whistle blew and the final score would be Hibernian 0 – Falkirk 1.

23rd August 2014 with a 3pm kick-off, Hibs would face Falkirk in their third league match of the new season.  Only an hour before kick-off Edinburgh seemed to find itself in the middle of a monsoon.  Unfortunately that made me think of May 25th 2014 when an hour or two before the match a monsoon drowned Edinburgh and seemingly Hibs’ confidence.  It did not bode well.

Hibs were, of course, without Lewis Stevenson, serving a two match ban for the Compliance Officers  “incident from nothing” with Jamie Walker at the derby at Tynecastle last weekend.

Starting line-up for Hibs then was: Oxley, Gray, Nelson, Forster, Harris, El Alagui, Craig, Heffernan, S Allan, Booth, Kennedy. Substitutes: Perntreou, Stanton, Cummings, Handling, Tudur Jones, L Allan, Crane.

Scott Allan getting his first start for Hibs as was Matt Kennedy.

Hibs started off the game with confidence, dominating well but what Hibs fans know is that even if Hibs start off like that, it doesn’t guarantee happiness.  Ultimately Falkirk went ahead in the 13th minute when Rory Loy back-heeled a shot in from a pass across goal from McGrandles.  Oxley was unable to do anything about it and the score was Hibs 0 – 1 Falkirk.

With Hibs creating 18 chances with which to even just equalise, never mind go ahead in the match, it should have been simple.  It should have been textbook even.

Hibs can’t finish and it’s as simple as that.  Credit, yes, to Jamie MacDonald because he is a solid goalkeeper and he definitely kept Hibs at bay on some accounts but in others it was entirely Hibs’ own fault.  Working hard to create chances and piling through Falkirk’s defence, Matt Kennedy proving quite good at that, only to shoot wide or high and leave everyone inside Easter Road frustrated.

Mark Oxley saved Hibs’ blushes before half time with a couple of saves taking the team inside at half time still in the match at least.

Hibs were very difficult to watch in that first half.  With passing good, chances created but not taken, you do have to wonder what was coming next…

Hibs came out in the second half with their heads high at least.  No “poor me” attitudes this season, so far, and they came out for a fight.  However, it didn’t entirely work out like that, for a short spell, with Falkirk pushing them back, Hibs looked like they were defending a lead rather than trying to push forward for an equaliser.

Falkirk had chances to take their own lead and increase it but it was their turn to create chances and not finish.

El Alagui had his best chance in the 63rd minute but his attempt to lob MacDonald went wrong and the ‘keeper was able to fingertip it away.

The 63rd minute also brought on Jason Cummings in replacement for Paul Heffernan.  A justifiable substitution.  Cummings certainly injected some beef into the team and they continued to press the Falkirk defence, but nothing coming from it, of course.

Sam Stanton replaced Alex Harris in the 79th minute and Danny Handling replaced Scott Allan in the 88th.  The chap behind who screamed that Harris should never have been on wasn’t entirely being helpful.  Harris worked hard, helping to create many of Hibs’ chances.  Booing crowds weren’t helpful either but there’s more on that later.

Both Hibs and Falkirk had chances towards the end of the game to score and the majority of the play was down in the Falkirk end.  It wasn’t tidy football though and there were times when the ball seemed in the air too much when it should have been on the deck.

Falkirk clung on though and took the 3 points dumping Hibs into 8th place in the Championship and pushing themselves up to 6th.

Dejected players sat on the pitch.  The feeling inside Easter Road was not a good one.  For their part the players did fight until the end.  They didn’t give up as they might of last season, often coming out for the second half with heads on chests, not looking like a unit.  Alan Stubbs’ Hibs definitely came out looking for a goal but they just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net and therein lies the problem.  A problem that Hibs have one more week to solve if the problem is going to be solved with the bringing in of more players of which a striker surely must be one.

While I feel that the support has the right to vent their views I wasn’t keen on the booing that occurred during the match.  I know others share the same view and there is no clear indication of what the booing is meant to achieve.  What messages it sends out to them is that we are not with them and they will come out with statements that the fans were right to boo, it’s understandable they way fans feel.  Well, I am most certainly WITH my team and I have not turned my back on Alan Stubbs or the team.  We are three games into a new season.  We were relegated last season in dire circumstances and we’ve had to make massive changes since then including a team rebuild, a new management structure.

The team rebuilding hasn’t just been replacing the players that the Mad Axeman chopped before he himself was, but it’s also involved getting the team to think of themselves as just that.  Stubbs has had to make them think like a team and work like a team and I think he’s achieved that in the short amount of time he had pre-season.

There’s no point saying the game was good, because it wasn’t.  There were good points, the passing play, the chances created, seeing Matthew Kennedy show us what he’s got, seeing them at least fight until the end.  Overall, not our best game but we haven’t lost the league.  I’m not particularly sure how quick people thought the rebuild was going to happen but it is happening.  The signs are there and we have to stick together.  Yes, discuss it in forums and with friends and air the different views but on match days we have to get behind that team and support them because it doesn’t work if we don’t.  Booing them and constant abuse throughout the match will never be beneficial in the rebuilding of Hibernian Football Club.

GGTTH

Featured image courtesy of Simon Dirom

Hibernian: First game, 3 points and a top scoring goalie

However the football season ends there’s some sort of a sense of loss that next weekend you won’t be either travelling to a game, home or away, or at least keeping up with the score from a game.

Us Hibernian supporters can vouch for a season ending badly, but still having that sense of loss.  It comes, partly, from being a football fan as much as it does from being the supporter of an individual team.  It also comes from being the supporter of a specific team.  You just want to be at the home ground supporting the team.  You want to be at the away grounds supporting them.

As May ends it can seem like such a long time until the start of the new season.  How to get through the next two months? Yes, there will be holidays, and this year we had the World Cup, a very decent World Cup, which at least satisfied the need to watch football.

Still, nothing beats the feeling of knowing the new season is so close you can touch it.  With a summer of worry for Hibs fans, it was a positive to have a decent run of form in the friendlies.  Yes, we went out of the Petrofac Cup but let’s not go into that here, I already blogged on my thoughts about that.

So it came around.  Saturday August 9th 2014.  Hibernian v Livingston.  3pm kick off.  This might be one benefit of life in the Championship, hopefully not many of our match times will change from 3pm on a Saturday.  Although, the better we play and the better our league position might change that.

Work beckoned for myself on Saturday morning and I know I’m not the only one.  If only we could all wake up on match day, have a cuppa and a bacon roll, chill out before heading towards the ground, or indeed, the pub before the ground.  Still, in this case, work at least deflected from the nervousness of the what would lie ahead.  The first game of the new season.  Our first in the Championship.  Our first league game with Alan Stubbs at the helm, the new team, the new goalie, the new era.

The journey from work to ground was a nervy one.  I had read on Twitter about a protest march due to take place in town and I didn’t want held up by that.  I don’t know about anyone else but if I don’t arrive at the ground until after kick-off I feel done.  That means even if I arrive two minutes after kick-off I feel like I’ve been done out of half the game.  I want to be there for all of it.

Protest avoided I made it to the ground at about 2:40pm.  The previous incident with the bag at the turnstile was a learning tool and this time I gathered my bag to my chest, swiped the season ticket and entered the ground like a hero.  Only to slide on the lid of a bottle inside.  However, no major incident there.

Work had initially deflected the nervousness until about 12 Noon when I suddenly thought about it and the nerves just kicked right in.  If the players were half as nervous as I was myself then they would have been climbing the walls of Easter Road.  I don’t know where the sudden nerves came from.  Perhaps from knowing Hibs of old.  Perhaps from seeing the changes made over the summer and just hoping beyond hope that this would be different, that Livingston wouldn’t hand us our rear-ends on a plate, that it wouldn’t be the same as before.

Entry to the ground was simpler this week, no choking myself on my own bag this week… Tea bought then up to seat 47 to watch the end of the warm up.

With the rest of  the support I stood up to welcome Stewart Woolard, our 90-year old mascot, onto the pitch.  What a guy he is, leading the Hibernian support in a rendition of Glory, Glory to the Hibees! Amazing.  I would have managed a picture of him but just as I tried the inevitable happened.  The south end sprinkler popped up on the pitch and a gust of wind brought a lovely spray of water across me and my phone (and the people in the rows in front of me).

Right, game time.  Out come Hibs.  Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Forster, Harris, Robertson, El Alagui, Craig, Stanton, Heffernan, Stevenson.  Not a bad starting eleven at all.

Slight nerves were apparent in the team and it did take them a little while to settle.  Livingston didn’t start badly themselves, took advantage of Hibs initially and were first to have a chance in 9 minutes.  A Talbot corner connected with Gallagher whose shot clanged off the crossbar.

This seemed to be the wake up for Hibs and they started playing as we’ve seen them in the friendlies.  Passing was good, the ball was moving well, there was a confidence there that was missing at the end of last season (no wonder) and more importantly, there was a team out there.

Moments later Harris fed the ball to El Alagui but his shot was sent over and away.

In seasons gone by, the longer there is no score in a Hibs match the more likely it would have been that Hibs would have tapered away and the opposition would have scored and perhaps taken a relatively easy 0-1 win.  As positive as I have been about the new changes at Hibernian, the thoughts and feelings from seasons before resurfaced.  Prove me wrong Hibs.

I shouldn’t have worried.  A Liam Craig corner in the 16th minute allowed El Alagui to escape his marker and head in the ball for his first goal for the club and Hibs first goal of the league season.  Nerves be calmed.  El Alagui celebrated with the fans and pulled his top up to reveal a tee shirt with writing on it.  Despite him running right past where I sit, I still failed to read what was written but it turned out that he was meant to be best man at a friends wedding on Saturday but opted to play for Hibernian instead.

Barely sat back down, updates sent and tea sipped and the Hibs fans were back on their feet again.  2-0 for Hibs and the scorer…none other than débutante goalkeeper Mark Oxley.  He was as surprised as everyone else, Livingston defence and keeper included, when his drop kick sailed over the Easter Road pitch, took a bounce and landed safely in the back of Darren Jamieson’s net.  Annoying for him, Livingston and their support but that kind of luck would never have landed itself upon Hibs in recent times.  A goal is a goal.

Hibs had more chances to seal the deal and take the game away from Livingston but for shots missing by a few inches here and there.  First half performance could be described as Hibs were flying.  Feeling more confident than they had for a long time.

Half time arrived.  I’m not going to make much complaint about the length of time I waited in the kiosk queue (20 minutes) and I wouldn’t have even bothered but had had nothing to eat all day and was, well, going to the pub after the game to (hopefully) celebrate.  Plus, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted chips.

So a delayed return to my own seat and I find that it has been occupied by someone else.  A man.  I took another seat which I knew to be unoccupied, munched the chips and then went up to my own seat.  Plonked myself down beside him and he immediately asked if he had taken my seat.  I told him he had.  He moved.  Which was a bit of a shame because whilst eating my chips I had formed a speech to perform should he have protested at my protest of him being in my seat.  Still, I’ll keep it in mind as I’m sure I’ll need it again.

Anyway, onto the second half.  Two things were noticeable.  One was the lack of seagulls.  There were some but not as many as usual after half time.  Kind of worrying when the seagulls don’t appear for the second half and provide some entertainment as they do battle over that half eaten cheese burger.

The other noticeable thing was that Hibs were not playing well.  For some reason the passing was poor, the heads seemed to have gone down and things just weren’t as they had been.  This didn’t happen immediately after the resumption of play but became noticeable.  The fear resurfaced.  Dare I say that there were a couple of hoofballs.  OK, they’re allowed and will happen but generally they fill Hibees with dread.

Livingston had changed tactics slightly and enjoyed more possession and brought the game to Hibs.  In the 59th minute Livingston’s Keaghan Jacobs took advantage of a sleepy Hibs and got a shot on but it was tipped to the crossbar by Oxley back out to the waiting Declan Gallagher who netted making it 2-1.

Oh.  No.

Suddenly wishing I hadn’t eaten the chips, the nerves returned.  I’m not about elsewhere in the ground but in the immediate vicinity of where I was sitting I could feel the change in the fans.  We had dared to hope, were we going to be left with the same feeling as seasons before? Would heads drop not to be lifted? Would the game fall for Livingston?

Thankfully not.  On all accounts.  First of all, the heads had dropped, the second half was scrappy but the Hibs players realised that and dug in to prevent disaster.  It was a nervy conclusion but they scrapped for the last few minutes keeping the ball in the Livingston end.  Rather than heads dropping and the team becoming individuals, they stuck together to give us a 2-1 win and a much welcome 3 points.  Not a perfect match, particularly in the second half, but Hibs dealt with it.

Subs for Hibernian were: Kennedy on for Stanton and Cummings on for Heffernan, both in the 79th minute.  Didn’t really see enough of Kennedy to make real comment, he was clearly nervy but if he settles into the team then only good things can happen.  Cummings is obviously returning from injury and just needs the match time.

Improved performances from Liam Craig, Alex Harris – though his confidence comes and goes, Scott Robertson and Farid El Alagui (for his goal!) and solid performances from Jordon Forster, Lewis Stevenson, David Gray and Paul Hanlon.

What to say about Mark Oxley at this stage? He talks to his defence, a lot.  He can make the saves and should settle in more with the team.  Oh, and of course, at this stage…he’s our joint top scorer.

We’re a long way, still, from being a finished team but we know that.  Yet if we can do this with the squad that we have then we’re on the right track.

Next up is Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday 17th August, 12:30pm kick-off.  I won’t be there and I won’t even be able to watch it (thanks work!) but you know where my mind will be.

GGTTH

Featured image for the blog: Farid El Alagui – courtesy of Simon Dirom.

Below: Mark Oxley’s goal.