Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Are Hibs ready for a ding-dong in Dingwall?

Yes, there was a real disappointment on Saturday but we have to get on with it, we still have it all to play for. It's going to be a test or our resolve and character. Okay, there was doom and gloom but I've asked the boys if we feel sorry for ourselves or take the bull by the horns.

We've got a quarter-final to look forward to, the chance to go to Hampden and a couple of wins will take us right back up that there. That's why I am delighted with what the boys have done, getting ourselves into this position and now we have to refocus and get ourselves over that finishing line.

It won't be easy, we will be playing against teams who are going for the same as we are but also clubs who are fighting relegation battles but we can't let anything faze us.
Falkirk fans will be familiar with John Hughes taking a belligerently optimistic stance at this stage of the season. Last season he was saying that if he kept them up and won the cup it would be one of the most successful seasons they'd ever had. In the end he delivered survival and a cup final before taking his leave.

The stakes are slightly different this year, but the Hibs fans are being delivered a familiar mantra. Third place and the cup - the holy relic of Hibs' annual, futile pilgrimage - are still on the table, stick by me as we weather the current storm.

After a toothless and spineless derby display - a Hearts supporting friend watching in London told me he was stunned by Hibs' apparent lack of interest - has cranked up the pressure on tonight's replay against Ross County. Those hardy Hibs fans making the long trip to Dingwall are waiting to be impressed. They're unlikely to be forgiving of failure.

In truth Hibs should already be out. An early goal and the composure of Derek Riordan earned them a draw that their display did not deserve. Like Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday, Ross County turned up at Easter Road with more desire than their opponents.

Passion is not something that Hughes himself has ever lacked. It must worry him, as it undoubtedly worries the fans, that at the moment he seems unable to instill it in his players.

With a few key players not quite firing, the attacking, passing mantra that Hughes is so keen to preach is failing his team. In such circumstances a team has to find the desire and fight that will see them through the lean times. Too often recently Hibs have failed. Even the Hibs fans, so often held up a paragons of a utopian brand of football that harks back to the halcyon days of Smith, Lawrie et al, appreciate hard graft. At times like this they would take a team of Ian Murrays.

But Yogi arrived at Easter Road with a plan to entertain and thrill the purist. His extensive transfer dealings were confined to building on that dream. With Plan A failing he seems to be flailing around in his search for a Plan B.

The derby defeat will have hurt the manager more than most. But tonight is an even sterner test. The building work continues at Easter Road. In Dingwall tonight we'll discover if John Hughes' Hibs Mark One are anything more than a house built on sand.

Prediction: Ross County in 90 minutes or Hibs on penalties. Or fence sitting as it's sometimes known.