Hibs last won a league game in November. Three days after that quite unfathomable game at Ibrox.
Since then they’ve collected two points from a possible twenty-four, conceding an average of exactly two goals a game, and find themselves in such dire straits that they haven’t scored since 2010.
They are garbage. Rubbish. Refuse to believe they are any better than the dregs of the SPL.
So are we worried?
We should be, for there are obvious problems at both ends (and in-between).
Firstly and most importantly there’s something rotten in the state of our defence and even our most talented defender, who often gives the impression of being able to smoke the metaphorical Hamlets during a game such is his level of comfort, has turned into a liability. The central defensive partnership – so often a real strength – is going through some hard times. That Andy Webster’s introduction and completion of a game without major incident was so heralded should grant some insight into events.
And it’s not just at the heart: Whittaker, Weir, Bougherra, even the beloved Papac have been shaky in recent times. Indeed, it is increasingly difficult to make the case that Whittaker is a defender, and his talents (which when confident are substantial) should really be employed in a more attacking role. No goal conceded is ever viewed as a work of beauty, but Rangers are most definitely striving this term to furnish us with some horror stories to spook the grandkids. One could find fault with at least five players during the move that lead to the smash-and-grab goal at Tynecastle.
If not chief amongst the guilty, certainly far from innocent, is the man who sits in the defensive midfielder position. Lee McCulloch had a fine spell at the start of the season but his present form and ludicrous bookings (now rewarding him with a holiday from the SPL) do little to make the case for his inclusion. Bro Edu’s return is welcome, and for all his shortcomings when on the ball his effectiveness in a defensive sense is plain to see. Once fully back up to match fitness Edu has to regularly take the starting place of Superman Lee.
However, it’s what’s going on up front that is possibly the most frustrating. Miller and goals have gone – and best of luck with that – but we do need to find a way of replacing them if not him. And the most tantalising aspect of it all is that in Nikica Jelavic we clearly have a striker of some class. The key problem with Jelavic is the obvious one: he’s like a quality toy lovingly unwrapped and rescued from his packaging but needing the time required to power up his battery before he can be properly played.
All things being equal, Hibs are unlikely to offer much resistance to Rangers, even if you imagine this game may be taking place at an advanced stage of a period where the future of the manager and key players has to be in doubt. Anything less than a comfortable victory tonight would be an embarrassment and a huge blow to hopes of 3IAR.
Rangers face some big fixtures in the next few weeks – after Motherwell it’s time for Hearts and a cup clash with our irritating neighbours. And then it’s time for Sporting in the Europa League before a trip to Parkhead. By the last of those our key asset may be in top gear and we should expect him to be one of our main weapons with which to crush the opposition.
But as of now – his class has already shone through during brief appearances v ICT and Hertz, yet it’s expecting too much to have him starting and dominating. So, in the meantime, we rely on Lafferty and Beattie. And hope Walter can find someone else in the transfer window.
Pardon me if that curbs my enthusiasm. But there can be no slip-up tonight or at the weekend.