Top line summary

  • David Marshall fit to face Dundee
  • Extensive work being done to alleviate set-piece struggles
  • Focus on winning next game over fixating on top six race
  • Rocky Bushiri ready to feature after AFCON, Emiliano could start

Nick Montgomery spoke to the media ahead of Hibs' Premiership clash with Dundee at Easter Road. Here's everything the Hibs manager had to say...

How is David Marshall?

“Davie is OK, he’s been back in training the last couple of days. The pitch at Pittodrie was really crumbly and it’s just been an action where he’s had more of a cramp than a strain. We had a scan that came back clear, so Marsh has been back in training and is in contention for tomorrow. He’s been massive for us. He’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the league. The way we play, he’s really calm and composed with the ball at feet. And not only that, he’s a great character. A character who brings a wealth of experience to everything we do. And he’s been on form. Again, it was a precautionary thing to take him off but well done to the physios for making the decision. And I thought when Jojo came on he was really assured, took a couple of catches and saw the game out. So there are a lot of positives to take from the situation – but it’s great to have Marsh back in training."

Given the league context, is the onus on you to take the game to Dundee? Could they play to frustrate?

“The last time we played them at home, we had 25 opportunities on goal and still couldn’t break them down. They’re quite resilient, they defend well. But they’re also dangerous. So what we can’t do is change things to chase it. We have to go out there with a plan to win the game. This is the first full week of training we’ve had with everybody back, including Rocky Bushiri, who was back in full training this week after being away on international duty. So we’ve prepared really well. Now we have to perform."

Is Rocky ready to play?

“Yeah, he’s trained really well this week. Unfortunately he’s been away for two months and didn’t play one minute of match football. But that’s stuff we can’t control. He’s trained really hard, been back for just over a week, so yeah, he’s in contention for tomorrow. As ever, I’ll pick based on who is ready and available, pick the best 11 players to start – and decide who comes off the bench. The one thing we have now is that impact off the bench. We’ve got people fighting for positions, so it’s a good headache to have – one I haven’t had very often this season."

Is it dangerous to fixate on league placings, the split, etc, over what's needed to win the next game?

“That can be really dangerous. As a team and as a manager, we aren’t going to focus on two or three games ahead. It’s always about the next game and putting in full preparation, with the staff, knowing that we go in with a really well thought-out game plan. Then it’s about the players executing it on the day. But we’re at home a lot now, which is good. We’ve had a lot of tough away games, so to have a run of home games is something you look on as an advantage, especially with our crowd, who we know can really get behind the players. I hope we can fill the stadium between now and the end of the season. And make those home games count, with everyone getting behind the team."

Who in the dressing room keeps things upbeat when they're not going well?

“I think all the boys play a part. Davie Marshall, Paul Hanlon and Joe Newell are the experienced guys who play a part. But we’ve got new players who have come in. And the young players do their bit. We went through a decent run earlier in the season, now we’ve been through a tough run. We’ve been drawing too many games, which is something we need to improve on. If we are to finish where we want to finish at the end of the season, we have to start turning draws into wins. What we have shown is an ability to come back from conceding goals, which is something that didn’t happen at this club for a long time. And you need character to do that. You need resilience and you need camaraderie. We already had a good team spirit. And the new boys who have come in over the last couple of weeks have really settled in. You need everybody to be fighting for the same cause."

Has it been a fast-track process in getting the new players accustomed to how you want to play?

“There was a transition when I came in to change the way the team played, and in January seven players went out, seven came in. It’s important to accelerate that development of the team, and the boys have really done that.

“Change is not easy, it takes time but the quality we’ve brought in has given us a lot of depth and options – formations, who starts, who comes off the bench. I think we’re in a really good place now, and it’s up to us to finish the season strong to finish what everyone wants.”

Talent perhaps only takes you so far in Scottish football, you have to compete first and foremost...

“Yeah, that’s normal. You have to show desire every game and play for the shirt. It is a very physical league, a lot of teams will play with a back five and who will be direct. You have to deal with that. We haven’t been great at defending set-pieces second phase, but that also coincided with a lot of players missing and having young players in the team. We’ve been working to make sure we stay in games, that we don’t give soft goals away, because we have a lot of quality in the team, and off the bench.

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“We’re a team that can score goals. The plan is always to score goals and keep clean sheets, but you have to do that as a team. I’ve played a lot of football in England and I know what the physicality is like up here. That’s something you have to deal with. With the players we have back, we have more height and experience at the back. It gives us a real opportunity to finish the season strongly.”

Do you feel better consistency of selection will help solve set-piece issues?

“Of course. Sometimes you go through phases – we’ve been really good in phases, and had phases where we’ve not been great. It’s something that we’ve worked on. What we need to do now is be hard to beat because we know we have players who can score goals – Martin Boyle is back and Myziane Maolida has been getting in the team, Emi Marcondes, Élie Youan. These are players who can win you games. We’ve got a really good squad, and it’s taken a little bit of time for everybody to gel. I thought we’ve shown some good moments in the last few weeks, scoring goals. Now, we need to be solid and concentrate for 90 minutes – but that’s what every manager will get you.”

What do you think is the best way to use Emiliano?

“He’s really versatile. He was outstanding in the Kilmarnock game but he got a bad kick on his foot and that went on for a couple of weeks. He’s fit and his numbers tell you he can play 90 minutes no problem. I don’t worry about three games in the next week, it’s about putting a team out to win the next game."

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"After that, we’ll have a look at changes because the beauty of the squad now is we have the ability to make changes. That’s something we didn’t have for a lot of the season. Emi’s a top player, everybody can see that. He needed a run of games to get his match fitness up, and it was unfortunate he took a knock in his first game for the club. He’s been training really hard this week and is definitely in contention for Dundee.”