Written by Robert Gray
Tonight is the biggest game our club has played in years. Bigger than the Celtic semi-final in February. Yes, even bigger than the Raith Rovers challenge cup final last season. This is what three seasons in the lower leagues has come down to. We had always hoped and, let’s be honest, expected to storm through these leagues and be back after three seasons. But a combination of a strong, consistent Hearts side and the McCoist/McDowall
management gardening farce has dropped us into a playoff battle to return to the top table.
This is a really difficult game to predict. Hibs had the upper hand over us three out of four times in the league. The positive thing out of our dreadful record against them though is the only game we have won is the only game Stuart McCall has been in charge of. At Easter Road in March, we were by far the better side. That game though also came at a time when Hibs were going through a bad run of form.
What’s clear is we have to be much better than we were against Queen of the South. The most concerning thing about the two legs against them was how even the two teams seemed. We were essentially clinging on by our finger nails at the end on Sunday. The last 10 minute onslaught of corners and Vuckic’s goal line clearance was all a bit too close for comfort. As we all know, Hibs are a better side than Queens and have also had the luxury of two weeks off since their last game. There’s been a lot of debating on whether two weeks rest is better than two weeks of momentum. But I think we would all have preferred the two weeks off to let Hibs and Queens wear each other out over two legs.
Change of Tactics
What worked in our favour so well at Easter Road in March was McCall’s change of formation to a 3-5-2. I’d like to think that McCall will go with something similar tonight having seen how effective it was. A 4-4-2 against Hibs, as shown in the other three games this season, just won’t work. The 3-5-2 seemed to catch them off guard and they struggled to create many chances. If we were to go with this formation tonight, I’d like to see a back 3 of Zaliukas, McGregor and Mohsni. Some of you may cringe at the thought of Mohsni playing tonight but he actually had one of his better games in the win at Easter Road. The 3 at the back approach seemed to suit him. I would certainly prefer to see him play ahead of McCulloch who worryingly is back in the squad for the game tonight. Three centre backs might seem a bit too defensive for a home game but it has worked in the past against Hibs and going to Easter Road chasing the game is definitely something to be avoided.
Hibernian danger men
Two players who have stood out for Hibs against us this season have been Scott Allan and Jason Cummings. Allan is a player I would like to see in our midfield. In the demolition job they did against us in December, Allan completely controlled the game. Shutting him down is essential to getting a good result tonight. He barely had a touch in our win against them and making life difficult for him tonight has to be a priority for McCall. Cummings is also a dangerous player who has already scored three times against us. He’s also scored a few goals against Hearts this season so doesn’t seem to be phased by big occasions. Stopping these two could go a long way in helping us take a lead to Easter Road on Saturday.
You can follow Robert Gray on Twitter @rgray279