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19 of 029 Michael Stewart 25 ;Audrius Ksanavicius 40 ;Saulius Mikoliunas 81 L SPL H

'Lazy' players infuriate Paatelainen as misery continues to hound Hibs

MANY feared Mixu Paatelainen had made himself a hostage to fortune with his constant assertions over the summer that everything would fall into place when it really mattered. This was the Hibernian manager's mantra when staring out from the rubble of pre- season, during which his side failed to win any of their eight matches.
It became ever harder to be convinced, but then Paatelainen was the one operating with his players on a daily basis, and, indeed, had brought many of them to the club himself. Most assumed he must know best.

So it was perhaps with a greater sense
of deflation that the 1571 travelling Hibs fans watched another goal-less performance from their side – the eleventh in 12 games – and, worse, yet another defeat. From the evidence of a first league outing, the manager's conviction that it will be all right when the competitive games begin appears skewed. He himself admitted to being deeply perturbed by this opening-day defeat against a hard-working Kilmarnock side.

Paatelainen has already signalled the need for one cull of first-team players. After a 3-0 defeat at Clyde last month the manager told up to nine players that they would no longer be considered for selection. Now the manager is set on another weeding-out exercise after the concession of a winning goal which Paatelainen put down to sloth on the part of some players.

Jamie Hamill's strike after 80 minutes stung the Hibs manager. He had just seen David Van Zanten, his right-back, leave the park for treatment for a head injury after a clash with Simon Ford. This left Hibs, who had sent on their third substitute just minutes earlier, with only ten players. Insult was added to injury when Hamill, who replaced Ford, capitalised on a fine run by David Fernandez and rifled the Spaniard's lay-off into the net from 20 yards.

The goal stemmed from one of countless Hibs attacks to be broken down on the edge of the Kilmarnock penalty area, due to a combination of gritty defending and lack of imagination and confidence on the part of those yellow-shirted players involved in the raids. Already outnumbered, Hibs then paid the price for not getting men back behind the ball quickly enough. It left Paatelainen livid.

Van Zanten might have been left with a thumping headache but he had one reason to consider himself fortunate, since the continued effort of the club physio to stem the flow of blood from the wound led to him missing his manager's post-match rant. The stitched-up cut was still weeping when he presented himself to reporters 30 minutes after the final whistle, by which time Paatelainen had made clear his disgust at the manner of Hibs' defeat.

"Our midfield just didn't want to defend," said the manager. "Certain individuals know. If you have lazy players like that out on the pitch you are always open, and liable to lose goals. Players with a lazy streak won't play for my team. I am particularly disappointed that it happened today." Asked if the players had accepted this interpretation, he said: "They have to accept it. It is a fact. That is what happened."

One of Paatelainen's qualities is that he has no desire to feel sorry for himself. There was no attempt to focus on the issue of Van Zanten's injury, despite it having a bearing on the result. There were other reasons to view the defeat as unfortunate.

Chris Hogg saw a net-bound header blocked by Colin Nish, his own player. Nish chose the day of his return to Rugby Park to have his worst game in a Hibs shirt, much to the delight of the home fans. He could not do anything right, and was even involved in the collision which saw Kilmarnock's Ryan O'Leary go off with a dislocated shoulder. More harmful to Hibs' afternoon was his lack of application and courage when presented with a glorious opportunity to score after just 15 minutes. Steven Fletcher threaded a fine pass through, and Nish simply side-footed the ball into Combe's hands.

Intriguingly, both striker and goalkeeper are Hibs fans, but here they colluded to make it a bleak day for their fellow supporters in the away stand, with Combe also saving well from Fletcher in the first half. Nish is likely to suffer the consequences, with Paatelainen still hoping to add another striker to his squad. "Once again we had a chance in front of goal and did not punish the opposition," the Finn lamented. "You must tell your striker to score in that situation. Simple as that."

A day which Paatelainen promised would provide evidence of his side's progress instead offered worrying signs of a lack of unity in the ranks, with Fletcher and Dean Shiels involved in a slagging match after the former had elected to shoot from what the better-positioned Shiels clearly felt was too far out. The wily Jim Jefferies could only observe this all from the Kilmarnock dug-out with a growing satisfaction. His players did everything required to frustrate Hibs, and are now intent on proving a few people wrong.

"A few wins and performances like that might shut some people up," he said as he left the press room, a comment aimed at those who have cast his side as relegation candidates this season. It is Hibs who are perhaps more deserving of this description, even so early in the proceedings.

Man of the match: Mehdi Taouil (Kilmarnock)

It perhaps summed up Hibs' day when a Moroccan was star man – just not one of theirs. Taouil grew into the match and provided a ragged encounter with some flair.

Taken from the Scotsman

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