When it comes to shedding the baggage of past failings, Hibs have proved themselves pretty adept in recent months. But that does not mean there was not a distinct sense of relief in the dressing room last weekend when they ended their run of five games without a win.
“It was a wee bit of a relief,” admitted attacker Andrew Shinnie, who was one of the stars of the show as the beat Dunfermline 3-1. “When you haven’t won in a few weeks you are always just wanting that win to come.The boys have been lively. We’ve had a good week’s training but it won’t really count for anything if we don’t go on and capitalise [today] and get a good result.
“If we can do that then we have a couple of big games after that and we can really put a statement out to the league.
“I think because we’re the big team in the league everyone highlighted it as a really bad run but we’ve only lost one game in the league so it’s not too bad. We would like to win more of those we were drawing and we weren’t scoring so in terms of that it wasn’t a great run, but it wasn’t horrendous.”
In fact, the Easter Road side sit top of the table, testament to the positive start to the season. It also serves to illustrate the high expectations. In their third season in the Championship, finally free of Hearts and Rangers, and with the buoyancy created by the historic Scottish Cup triumph, the demands are unequivocal. That is something Shinnie and his team-mates have been coming to terms with.
“When you’re at a club like this and not picking up results, it’s a test of character for everyone because we’re expected to do so well and beat teams every week,” stressed Shinnie. “We came out and showed what we’re all about in the second half after being 1-0 down. We scored three goals and won the game convincingly. The boys showed that we’ve got that character. Hopefully that’s us over that stuttering run and we can push on again.
“Teams coming to play us have no pressure really, people expect them to lose so they’ve got a free hit. If they get anything out of the game they’ve done well, if they don’t people will say: ‘Hibs should have beaten you anyway’. It’s a lose-lose situation for us. If we don’t win we get heavily criticised and if we do win then, well, you’re expected to win anyway. That’s the expectation we need to deal with just now.
“When I played at Inverness, we used to go to Ibrox and Parkhead and places like that and think ‘let’s just go out and play’. We would give it our best shot and frustrate them and try and nick a win. I managed to do that. I think we beat Rangers at Ibrox and Celtic at Parkhead. But I began to realise how difficult it was for those players, because every week at clubs like Celtic, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts you have to win or you get heavily criticised. It’s different being on the other side of that.”
Sitting top of the table, three points clear of Dundee United and Queen of the South, the pressure is on them to maintain the standards set last weekend, in a performance described by manager Neil Lennon as “outstanding”. The boss felt that all aspects had finally collided and the penny had dropped and the challenge is now in producing a similar showing week in, week out. This afternoon, against St Mirren, the side who ousted them from the Betfred Cup, the challenge is to replicate last weekend’s display.
“If we drop points we’re the most disappointed,” insisted Shinnie. “The fans will be disappointed but we hurt because we know we are better than we have shown in the last few weeks. Last week was a big turnaround. That’s the way we can play, we moved the ball and Dunfermline couldn’t really live with us. If we play like that we will win most games.”