Saints v Hibs preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Saturday, 28th April 2012
A Sunday TV game between Saints and a side facing relegation isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea but hopefully tomorrow's game against Hibs will be similar to last week's against Dunfermline - only this time we'll win!
Last week's match was pretty entertaining even though the end was frustrating to say the least. It was pleasing to see the goals suddenly flying in but we conceded some rather silly ones. If we repeat that tomorrow then Hibs' strikers will have a field day and we can kiss goodbye to our already fading chances of finishing seventh. We need to get another win soon if we want to ensure we finish no worse than ninth - ending up 10th would be nothing short of scandalous considering the talent we've at our disposal this season.
For some inexplicable reason the TV companies seem to be fascinated with games between Saints and Hibs. There's no obvious method to their madness as last season's TV matches produced just a couple of goals between them. The first, which we won, had the new season feel to add intrigue but the second was dire, dire stuff - and I'd be saying that even if Hibs hadn't won it late on. Like this match, that fixture followed an Old Firm game and we were treated to the quite disgraceful sight of Jamie McCluskey celebrating a Celtic goal while in the Saints dressing room. He's now gone and hopefully no one will be hurrying to follow in his footsteps.
We'd have been better asking the cameras to stay away as two of this season's games have been pretty good - and they weren't live. At the start of the season we won 2-1 at Easter Road after going behind, while a mental first half in November saw Hibs go ahead, then behind, then go back into a lead they didn't lose. More of that entertainment tomorrow - preferably with us coming out on top this time around - would be much appreciated as we close in on the end of the season.
Danny Lennon has some decisions to make with his team as he looks ahead to next season - and I'm not talking about giving guys like Jason Naismith, Thomas Reilly and Darren McGregor some game time. We have at least two players, Jim Goodwin and Steven Thompson, who are just a booking away from a suspension - and by my reckoning that wouldn't kick in until after our final game of the season, thus ruling them out of our first match after the summer. There are plenty of replacements for Goodwin - McGregor or soon to leave Hugh Murray or Steven Thomson - but leaving Thompson out is rather riskier. He has been in lethal form of late and without him we have no physical threat up front. Don't be surprised to see them both start - and don't be surprised if at least one of them is missing at the start of the new season.
In fact, don't be surprised if we see a side similar to last week's one, although we will at least have Jeroen Tesselaar back. Hopefully that should tighten things up in defence but it's anyone's guess who should make way as Graham Carey provided some teasing crosses. Even if Carey is the man to make way, as he has so often been this season, we'll still have a fairly attacking side with Nigel Hasselbaink looking to continue his good form of late, the Dutchman seeming to benefit greatly from playing alongside the in-form Thompson.
Hibs may be involved in the relegation fight but after securing their safety - which still requires a bit of work - their focus will turn to the Scottish Cup final. Their win over Aberdeen a fortnight ago set up a clash against Hearts and it gives them another chance to finally end the curse that has seen them denied the world's oldest football trophy for more than a century. If he achieves that then Pat Fenlon will achieve God like status in Leith regardless of what he does during the rest of his time in charge at Easter Road. He'd probably be as well resigning as it isn't likely to get much better!
For now Hibs will be focussing on ensuring SPL survival and not throwing away a six point gap to Dunfermline after another pretty miserable league campaign. Quite why they waited so long to bullet Colin Calderwood is anyone's guess, especially as some clubs were willing to take him during the summer, and Fenlon will be hoping for better luck in his bid to return the Hibees to the top six next season. The fact he ditched a large chunk of Calderwood's signings so soon after his arrival shows what he thought of his predecessor’s talent spotting skills. At least Victor Palsson managed to land himself a gig at New York Red Bulls, the bright lights of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre slightly more seductive than Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat.
Fenlon was pretty busy during January and he wasn't just ripping up players' contracts. Pa Saikou Kujabi looks an interesting defensive acquisition - his free-kick against Motherwell before the split provoking much amusement. James McPake started off with a comedy red card at Ibrox but has managed to get better and it wouldn't be a surprise to see his loan move from Coventry made permanent in the summer. Stokes' Tom Soares probably won't be staying in Edinburgh as his wages will be too much to afford but he's been impressive, the same going for Wolves youngster Matt Doherty. Hopefully they can keep Jorge Claros, their capture of him in January provoking laughs in Scottish football as Rangers supposedly couldn't afford him.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Fenlon move for more Irish players in the summer now that he's had a chance to see what the SPL is all about. However, his previous capture from the Emerald Isle has hardly been impressive so far, Eoin Doyle managing a couple of vital Scottish Cup goals but nothing in the SPL. Fortunately, Fenlon can rely on a couple of rather more lethal strikers. Garry O'Connor and Leigh Griffiths have impressive tallies when you consider where Hibs are in the table. Curiously they never seem to be in prolific form at the same time of the season - O'Connor starting the season in style before Griffith's picked up the slack when the former Scotland striker's form dipped. Adding pace to the attack is Ivan Sproule, who used to terrorise Rangers during his first spell at Hibs.
Hibs don't quite have keepers as bad as Yves Ma Kalambay any more but Graham Stack is still capable of the odd shaky moment, Mark Brown only a bit more reliable. Unfortunately for us it'll be Brown playing tomorrow as Stack is injured. Ian Murray has been in decent form this season and would love to cap his testimonial year by lifting the Scottish Cup, while the likes of Paul Hanlon, David Wotherspoon, Lewis Stevenson and Callum Booth show the future is pretty bright at Hibs - even if they're no longer churning out youngsters that will generate the sort of big transfer fees guys like O'Connor, Scott Brown and Steven Whittaker attracted.
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