Hibs fan Matty Fairnie of the Longbangers podcast reflects on an action-packed week for those of a green and white persuasion

Where to start with a whirlwind week at Hibernian? A hard-fought draw against Celtic at Easter Road on Saturday precluded a draw with Ross County that was significantly less well received by the Hibs support, which itself was usurped by the news that American billionaire Bill Foley is reportedly keen to invest sufficient funds into the club that they will be the clear third force in Scotland. Just another typical week in Leith, really. 

Eyebrows raised but Celtic display well received

Celtic came to town with Brendan Rodgers seeking his first win at Easter Road as Celtic manager over his two spells in charge. Hibs, off the back of a meek defeat to Rangers, were not expected to put up much of a fight. Much was made of Nick Montgomery’s decision to keep faith with his favoured 442 formation, with some pundits pinpointing it as the reason Hibs came unstuck.

The manager however, who celebrated his 42nd birthday against the Hoops, stuck to his guns and started with his preferred set-up. With Rocky Bushiri and Jair Tavares replacing Paul Hanlon and Adam Le Fondre in the starting eleven, it’s fair to say several eyebrows were raised when the team lines were announced.

Those big calls were vindicated with his team putting in a terrific performance. The gaffer deserves huge credit for this, not just for squeezing every last ounce of effort from his team but for genuinely having the courage of his convictions.

It would have been easy for Montgomery to have acted on the criticism in the post-Ibrox fall-out and go back to the drawing board with a new, more cautious system to face Celtic. I would have been disappointed if he had, to be honest.

Had Monty ripped up his system at the first sign of trouble, it’s a long way back to get the players to truly believe in it. There’s an argument for adaptability, but Montgomery showed on Saturday that there is room for both. He stuck to the formation, but within that, asked the players to do more.

Hibs were excellent, for all there was some Celtic tears post-match with accusations of “anti-football” from one Celtic blogger, those calls are well wide of the mark. Hibs had the game’s first effort on target, a shot from Élie Youan just before the half-hour mark which called Joe Hart into action.

Celtic’s best chances of the first half came through sloppy play from Hibs’ goal kick routines. First, Bushiri (who did a fantastic job of keeping Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi quiet throughout the match) gave away possession at the edge of the box which resulted in a shot flying narrowly past the post, before a Jimmy Jeggo slip forced David Marshall to save smartly at the feet of first Callum McGregor and then Daizen Maeda.

Hibs started the second half with more attacking purpose and were unlucky not to find themselves ahead when Jordan Obita’s superb cross was fired over by Martin Boyle with the goal at his mercy. It wasn’t an easy chance, but it was the best of the game to that point.

The match opened up in the later stages as both sides made changes. Celtic came closest when James Forrest rattled the crossbar as the game drew to a close, but beyond that Hibs had managed to keep their visitors at arm’s length and were well worth the point.

Staggies fight back on fright night

Ross County were next up on Hallowe’en with Hibs looking to avoid any scares in a game that they really needed to win, given the slow start to the season. Hibs had just the two league wins to their name going into this match, and for a team with ambitions of at least a fourth-place finish, that’s far from good enough.

With the first round of fixtures now over, Hibs find themselves seven points adrift of St Mirren in third, and three behind Hearts in fourth. It’s only really the reluctance of their rivals to put any kind of run together that is keeping Hibs in the hunt.

Hibs have failed to pick up full points against all bar St Johnstone and Aberdeen, and on Tuesday night it was another case of orchestrating their own downfall that prevented them clocking up a third win.

The first half was a hard watch with neither side really finding their groove. Hibs were slow and ponderous, their play lacking any kind of urgency – most notably with the time taken to restart the game at goal kicks, which drew the ire of some sections of the home crowd.

There were some good passages of play, but they were outnumbered by long periods of nothingness. There’s a lot to be said for patience and the art of drawing your opponent out of position to sting them with a quick counter-attack, but a lot less to be said for the meandering style of Tuesday night’s first-half performance.

Even the goal scored by Youan was lethargic, his shot from the edge of the box hitting a Ross County defender and creeping into the net, with Ross Laidlaw left wrong-footed. It was a welcome bit of good fortune which lifted spirits just ahead of half-time.

In the second half Hibs played with much more purpose. Dylan Levitt was the driving force in midfield and he dictated play with clever movement and crisp passing that took Hibs forward with much more frequency than in the first half.

It was a Levitt pass, beautifully clipped past the County full back, that sent Tavares scampering towards goal to unleash a near-post shot that flew past Laidlaw to give Hibs a two-goal lead.

It was a moment to savour for the Portuguese winger; he had an excellent evening, and his goal was met with huge applause from an Easter Road crowd desperate to see him come good.

That should have been enough to secure the points, and the goal was of such quality that it’s frankly criminal that it wasn’t a winner. Instead, Hibs pressed the self-destruct button again and allowed County to find their way back into the match.

A mistake from Jojo Wollacott, making his first start in the league with Marshall rested, led to a cross ricocheting off of substitute Allan Delferrière for an unfortunate own goal. From there, you just knew what was coming. An equaliser felt inevitable, and so it came. Again, Hibs failed to deal with a ball into the box and before you could say “trick or treat”, County were level through Jordan White.

Montgomery took responsibility for the dropped points in his post-match interview, and he was right to do so. His substitutions disrupted the team at a point where it seemed like Hibs would see out the game comfortably. County had offered little all night, but took full advantage of Hibs’ lack of cohesion late in the game.

The side left the field to a chorus of boos from a crowd growing more frustrated at the team’s shortcomings.

Foley's investment interest

The news of potential investment from Bournemouth owner Bill Foley had broken just before the game and for me, it’s hugely exciting - should it come to pass, of course. Hibs are ideally placed for someone with the will and means to take us to the next level, and the prospect of a billionaire supporting the Gordon family’s ambitions is mouth-watering. To be honest, on the back of Tuesday night, if you'd offered me investment from the devil himself in exchange for never having to watch such a capitulation as we’d just witnessed, I’d have taken the deal there and then.

As it is, the source of money appears to come with far fewer moral dilemmas than a deal with Lucifer, so I really do hope that this is the start of some very exciting times for Hibs fans. If we could kick that off with a win in the Viaplay Cup semi-final at Hampden on Saturday, that would help erase the Hallowe’en nightmares nicely.