Turbulent Period Ends In Victory for Fenlon’s Hibs
AS HIBS LINED UP to face Celtic in the SPL on Sunday, they sat joint on points at the foot of the table with Dunfermline, with the Edinburgh side ahead only on goal difference. Three games – and sixteen goals – later, and Hibernian have a three-point gap above the relegation spot with a game in hand. The calm waters of Leith’s harbour give lie to the tumultuous fortunes of its football team. This comes as no surprise to the time-weathered followers of Hibernian, though for Pat Fenlon the experience may well be one that requires adjustment.
SPL-leaders Celtic visited Easter Road on Sunday 19th February. Neil Lennon’s side were in emphatic form, currently enjoying a record-breaking winning streak in the Scottish top flight, and their visit to the capital city continued in a similar vein. Fenlon’s side suffered a 5-0 defeat in a flat performance which, despite Celtic’s current form, served as an alarming wake up call to everyone involved with Hibernian who now teetered on the brink of the relegation zone.
A mid-week trip to Motherwell offered Hibs the chance of a respite from the hangover induced by Sunday’s heavy defeat. Motherwell, emboldened by the recent 10 point sanction place upon Rangers as they entered into administration, could begin to look above and beyond their 3rd place standing. Their recent form would suggest that they would be favourites ahead of Hibs, though most observers whom are familiar with the SPL will recognise this fixture as an entirely unpredictable affair, in no small part due to a 6-6 scoreline here in 2010.
Wednesday’s game was equally as compelling. Hibernian, bolstered by a sizable travelling support, took the game to the hosts early on. The visitors looked confident and dangerous in attack. Yet a return to some all-too familiar failings for Pat Fenlon’s team allowed ‘Well back into the game. It was a hard-fought encounter in which Hibs’ prowess going forward and in the middle of the park was undone by repeated defensive mistakes – including the gifting of two penalties by young Irishman Matt Doherty. The game finished 4-3. The enthrallment of the neutral offered scant consolation for Fenlon and his players.
To end the week, Hibernian travelled to Kilmarnock, eager to dispel the disappointment of the previous two matches. Fenlon had made a couple of key changes to the side that lost at Motherwell, replacing Matt Doherty with Pa Kujabi in defence and Irish forward Roy O’Donovan taking the place of Garry O’Connor. It was an astute reshuffle which appeared to banish the woes of the week that had passed. Central to Hibernian’s performance on Saturday was the return from injury of Tom Soares, on loan from Stoke City. Two goals from Soares and a fine 25 yard strike from O’Donovan saw Hibernian record a crucial 3-1 victory over Kenny Shiels’ Kilmarnock side.
The sense of relief around the Easter Road club was palpable as Fenlon recorded his second league win with the club, though the Hibs boss urged caution. “It’s one win, nothing else. If we can get on a little bit of a roll, that will help us”, Fenlon told the BBC. “It’s a massive game at home to St Mirren next week. It’s important that we stay focused.”
There is breathing space now between the bottom two clubs in Scottish Premier League. Fenlon’s plea for focus will need to be heeded if Hibs are to part from their capricious habits.