The draw was made. Hibs were to face Rangers in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup.
Petrofac, Shake ‘n’ Vac, what the feck, (Ramsden’s was easier) the cup is nice to win but if you go out of it early doors you can’t really be disappointed. Staying in just means more games to be played and for Hibs we’re better with less.
That’s not to take away from the eventual winners of the cup, it will be a deserved win and, of course, a cup.
However, this season has to be about the league for Hibs, there’s no two ways about it. If we do well in the league cup and the Scottish cup well, that will be nice, but our focus has to be the league.
For Alan Stubbs, the fixture at Ibrox on Tuesday August 5th was his first in charge of a competition match. For many Hibs fans who hadn’t been able to make it to the friendlies it was the first time to see the team in this new era.
A new era. Not like the new era of Terry Butcher, taking over a tired team and telling them they weren’t going to be the future, but a new era where the boss comes in and looks at the team and says, we can do this and he actually believes it. He believes he can take each player and make them work as part of a team. Guess what? He did it.
The friendlies, for those who saw them, opened a lot of eyes. My first was against Dundee United at Easter Road on Sunday 27th July. Yes, a 0-1 loss but what a different team. I have spoken about this in a previous blog but my jaw certainly dropped at the difference in attitudes. There was a team out there, not 11 individual players. Passing well, no hoofball. Could it be taken into a properly competitive game? Remained to be seen.
It seemed a bit of a harsh start to the season, Rangers at Ibrox, but hell, if you’re going to have a match to test you then why not make it this one? Not a league game so, in many ways, a good game to test your bottle, test your team and see how you come out of it.
First half, Hibs were nervy, they were not confident. This was not unexpected. Playing well in the friendlies is one thing, you can lose badly there but also test out your team. Hibs didn’t lose badly in any of their friendlies but, in fact, gave fans something to look forward to. Rangers at Ibrox in a proper cup, this was different though.
The old fear returned, during that first half, Hibs went down 1-0 to a Lewis MacLeod shot in the 14th minute and I am sure I am not alone in thinking here we go again. Not pleased to think that about Hibs but as a long suffering supporter it was always going to go through my mind, as I’m sure it did for many other supporters. Would the heads go down? Was that the match over for Hibernian? Last season I would have said yes, this season I wanted to say no.
While last season Hibs would have folded after the loss of a relatively early goal, this seasons team had different ideas. They got themselves to half time without further loss and by playing some good football.
Whatever Alan Stubbs said in the dressing room at half time was obviously positive. The team came out for the second half ready to fight and fight they absolutely did. Passing well, taking care of Rangers in all respects and most importantly, Danny Handling hammered home the equaliser on the hour. Confidence high, Rangers for the taking. Hibs should have taken the tie and sown Rangers up.
Until the 79th minute. Danny Handling’s tackle on David Templeton was risky, no-one would deny that, but he won the ball, quite why he was issued a red card when it was clearly a yellow card offence is anyones guess – plenty have theories – but there it stood. At 1-1, with 11+added on time to go, Hibs were down to 10 men.
Another situation where Hibs teams of late would have folded, but this Hibs team said NO.
Rather than fold, Hibs readjusted. While, with 11 men we might have been able to go on and score a winner, with 10 we didn’t concede, not in regulation time anyway and if that had been a league match we’d have left Ibrox with a point, only having given them a point.
However, extra time it was. Ten men went in. Ten? Well, if we count the 1,000 strong support for Hibernian we can say that we still had our extra man. We battled on but Nicky Law broke our green hearts by making it 2-1 for Rangers while we had Robbo down on the ground with cramp, unable to clear it. While not against the rules to score in that situation you can take from it what you will. We weren’t beat 11 on 11, that’s for sure.
What should we take from this game?
Positive play. Fight. Determination. Playing as a team, playing for Hibernian. We played Rangers but we could have been playing anyone, Hibs went out there saying it doesn’t matter who you are, we’re bringing the fight to you, you have to beat us. Rangers did beat us but we made them do it. We didn’t lie down.
We’re short of a striker, there’s fact in that but Alan Stubbs will see that and he’s not soft, he’ll be working on getting that sorted.
I’m pleased to say that my dad, a life-long Hibby and severely disillusioned, watched Hibs at Ibrox on TV and had confidence restored. Not in the first half, has to be said, but in the second, he was pleased with the new style, calmer Hibs and felt we should have had at least four goals and saw them off easy. If only someone could finish, and that is our problem.
We’re out of the Petrofac Cup but that’s fine. We had a good run out, we saw what we can do in competition. We’re not going to win every game, that’s the nature of football, but we’ve got a good chance. Without these cup games it means we have less games and that’s a good thing. A simplistic fixture list will be more beneficial for us in the long run. We don’t need it clumped up by cup games when we need to concentrate on the league.
So now, it’s time to concentrate on the league for a couple of weeks before our first League Cup outing, also at home against Dumbarton on the 26/27th of August.
We can do this Hibernian.
And now…Alan Stubbs. Utterly honest and refreshing interview with the Hibs boss following the 2-1 loss at Ibrox.