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Hibees roar as Livi’s Lions wake the beast

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“We know there will be times when more is required and we need to have confidence in the side to be able to raise their performance levels if and when that time comes around.”

I’ve got to be honest at one, nil up and cruising towards another dominant, if not emphatic result I didn’t think we would be talking about these words, written by myself, only two days previously.

Jason Cummings’ opener should have been enough to see out the result and bar one stupid lapse in concentration I am sure that would have been case. As it transpired Hibernian won the match in the end but it should have been far more comfortable than it ended up.

Ibra Sekajja, formerly of Inverness, prodded home after a long hopeful throw had found its way to the lively forward via a couple of flick ons. There looked to be a slight foul in the area but the Hibs defence were caught sleeping and the Ugandan born striker scored to seal what he and his teammates must have thought was an unlikely, yet invaluable away point.

The West Lothian club are trying their hardest to avoid relegation to League One and with only three minutes left to play, following Sekajja’s strike, they will be kicking themselves that they went on to lose the game.

The goal seemed to wake Hibs from a second half slumber where it was almost too easy for them. Knocking the ball about, relaxed movements, conserving energy but still well in command, the Hibees were stunned in to action. Once upon a time this was a game they would almost certainly have blown. Two points would have been lost and there would have been no reaction but this Hibs team is an altogether different beast.

There is a steel, a desire, a mettle to do things differently, there is a want to put the wrongs right and there is a need to react to adversity.

There was more required in the dying minutes on Wednesday evening but when they were asked a question the players responded in magnificent fashion.

The Livingston players were still celebrating to the right of Mark Oxley’s goal when the Hibs players were set for the restart, every one of the players stood shell-shocked yet determined to overcome the loss of the first goal they had conceded in the league since January. The game kicked off at pace and Livingston’s defenders were out of their shape, Scott Robertson lifted his head and found Lewis Stevenson out wide left, the full back who was advanced high up the pitch, took a touch and delivered a fantastic cross on to the head of Ivorian striker Franck Dja-Djedje.

The header was a thing of beauty, directed perfectly in to the net and the ball nestled beyond Jamieson much to the delight of a home support who minutes earlier were aghast at what they had witnessed.

The reaction of all the players was fantastic; they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and proceeded to deliver a knockout blow that was devastating and delightful in so many contrasting ways for both teams.

Devastating for Livi as their relegation battle took an almighty dent but the beast that is Hibernian is being woken up and this is the apex of all corners. The players need to take huge credit for the turnaround and where they may have meekly shrugged their shoulders previously they are now rolling up their sleeves and doing everything that is necessary to win the points.

Delightful, from the move which led to the goal, the leap from Dja-Djedje which was timed to perfection and to the header itself which was one to savour but the rapturous cheer that followed was great to hear from a stadium which has seen its fair share of disappointments.

The players were visually ecstatic to have responded in that way, the joy was etched on all their faces although I am sure that the manager was less than complimentary once the initial relief had worn off.

This was a timely reminder that, no matter what, they cannot switch off.

Alan Stubbs, I am sure, will be drumming that home to his players in the aftermath of this game and with a trip to struggling Cowdenbeath on Saturday Hibs know they will not be able to take anything for granted.

There is no denying that this should have been a comprehensive and comfortable result, the scoreline is the only statistic that matters at the referee’s final whistle but Hibernian very nearly allowed Livingston and also play-off rivals Rangers off the hook by dropping two points at home in a match they should have won by a much greater margin.

Sixty-two per cent possession, twelve shots, six of them on target and despite four changes to the starting line-up Hibs were clearly on top throughout the majority of the ninety minutes.

Keith Watson, Martin Boyle, Liam Craig and Dja-Djedje replaced David Gray, Scott Allan, Dylan McGeouch and Dominique Malonga as Stubbs chose to shuffle his pack with the squad playing three games in six days.

The alterations to the starting eleven meant a change in formation to 3-5-2 with Hibs hoping to overload the midfield, widen the pitch and prevent Livingston anytime on the ball. Boyle and Stevenson were wing-backs with Watson playing at right centre half and Dja-Djedje alongside Cummings in attack. Captain Liam Craig took his place alongside Fyvie and Robertson at the heart of the midfield and he had an instrumental effect in Hibs’ victory.

As with much of the game Hibs bossed the opening period and should have been ahead when Cummings was afforded an opportunity on the edge of the area. He miscued his effort though and the chance went a begging.

He didn’t have to wait long until he had another chance and this time he gratefully accepted.

A superb through ball, from the much-maligned Liam Craig, found Cummings running through on goal, he steadied himself feinted one way, taking the ball round the ‘keeper the other and side-footed home before the Livi defender could recover.

Hibs were well worthy of their lead at this point and with a wee bit more incisiveness they could and probably should have been three or four to the good.

There is a tendency to overplay but that can only be a slight criticism given the last few years and the type of football we are now becoming accustomed to.

Patience is key in the long-run and following Dja-Djedje’s winner no-one would have cared how or why it happened but this was another sign that Hibernian are on their way back.

Fife beckons on Saturday and there is absolutely no chance that any Hibs player will be thinking this trip over the Forth will be straightforward.

I fully expect Gray, Allan, McGeouch and Malonga all to start against Jimmy Nicholl’s men. They will all be raring to go in a clash which is vital if the boys in green are to continue their superb run.

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