One can only imagine the mood at the Hibernian Training Centre on Monday as the group reconvened ahead of Wednesday night's clash with Celtic at Easter Road. Sombre would be a good bet, even allowing for the return of good-natured human hurricane Martin Boyle from Asian Cup duty, after the ignominy of Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by St Mirren. Hibs failed to lay a glove anywhere near the Buddies, never mind on them, and speaking after the game captain Joe Newell cut a shellshocked figure. 

A 3-0 home defeat by any team sticks in the craw but losing all three goals in the space of 36 first-half minutes? The cacophony of jeers that followed the Hibs team down the tunnel at half-time as well as soundtracking their return to the pitch told their own story. The financial figures quietly released on Tuesday morning, showing a near £4 million loss as a result of overspending on players and poor performances in both domestic cup competitions, plus a wages-to-turnover ratio of 81%, made for alarming reading - even if the club is confident that a combination of Bill Foley's investment, money from the European run, cup progression, and a lower wages-to-turnover ratio can make next year's accounts more palatable. 

Hosting Brendan Rodgers' side, who will be licking their wounds after dropping points away to then-managerless Aberdeen at the weekend, could be the ideal tonic for such a chastening home defeat but it could also be a daunting prospect for a team almost certainly lacking in confidence. 

So no pressure then, Nick Montgomery, who is sitting on two points from the last 18 and hasn't won a league game since early December - coincidentally against Livingston, the side currently propping up the Scottish top flight. Speaking ahead of the midweek fixture, he revisited Saturday's defeat.  

"It was a performance I didn’t expect, and I don’t think anyone expected it. There was a lot of optimism with the new players coming in. But when you try to put your finger on why, then there was a lot of change, a lot of players coming in and out... change is good, but it’s also hard at first.

“Now it’s a case of gelling the boys together and integrating them into the way we play, the principles we have and understanding the club. It was a really flat performance. We owned it, I owned it. The boys weren’t happy with it. By half-time, it was too late. In the second half, we had two or three good opportunities to score but it was a bit of an uphill task because of the goals we gave away."

One thing for which Montgomery has developed a habit is focusing on the future and any positives, which is possibly why he insisted on labelling the second half against the Buddies 'a lot better'. You could argue that it was a lot better in the sense that Hibs didn't concede any goals, but they didn't really threaten Zach Hemming's goal either, although the Easter Road head coach did accept the criticism that the performance had lacked fight and desire from minute one.

“You’re in a position where fans pay their money to watch and the minimum requirement is that you put the effort in and show a bit more desire than we did. It’s a criticism, constructive feedback that the boys accepted at half-time, after the game, and when we reviewed it back.

“We spoke about it. I think most teams go through a flat performance like that at some point in the season. What you can’t do is dwell on it. You have to move forward. It’s up to me to make sure it doesn’t happen again. All three goals we conceded were avoidable, set-pieces, second phases -  that’s something we spoke about and it can’t happen again. We can’t chase games and give goals away like that. The second-half performance was a lot better, but it was too late.”

His description of the post-match debrief - 'not so much talking, more shouting' - hinted at his true reaction to what was arguably the worst performance of the season so far, from a team that lost the first three games of the league season including one to the team currently bottom of the league. 

“I’m a passionate guy, I wear my heart on my sleeve and if anyone knew me as a player or manager then I’m a competitor," he stated. "The number-one thing in this league is, you have to compete. It’s a physical league and you have to compete first and foremost. Yes, we have quality players but if you don’t match the opposition for fight, and you give poor goals away, it’s going to be difficult. It’s a learning curve for the new boys coming in and those who have been here a while too. They need time to gel. Change is good, we needed change. But it’s also hard."

Montgomery will hope to benefit from the availability of Martin Boyle and Lewis Miller after the pair's return from the Asian Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals with Australia before being eliminated by South Korea. 

“Physically they’re both good. We get the data from the national team and they’ve been training not too differently from how we train here," Montgomery continued. "Boyley’s numbers are good and he has recovered. He always looks after himself and they’ve both come back in good condition. We have missed Lewis; his height and his power. We conceded goals in that back-post area against Kilmarnock when, if Lewis was playing, we don’t concede them.

"Both of them are in contention to start the game because they came back a couple of days ago and they’ve had a little bit of time to recover. They’re desperate to get back out there and put the Hibs shirt on."

Some of Miller's best performances in a Hibs shirt have come against Celtic, while there will be hope that Boyle can put in a(nother) talismanic display on the flank. Goodness knows Hibs, and Montgomery, could do with it.