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Paulo Sergio <-auth DAVID HARDIE auth-> Craig Thomson
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No Hiding place for sorry Hibs

Published Date: 29 August 2011
The taunts of "you're going down" which thundered from three of the stands at Tynecastle may have been somewhat premature given the fact Hibs still have 33 more SPL matches to play.
But the indisputable fact is that today Colin Calderwood's side sit bottom of the table, a position they will occupy for at least the next fortnight.

Plenty of time then to ponder exactly why they've managed a meagre three points from their opening five matches and to consider just what they can do to extricate themselves from the danger zone.

No-one down Easter Road way, though, should be taking the situation lightly, unless Hibs begin to pick up points on a regular basis they'll find it an increasingly hard haul towards even mid-table respectability.

It's far from pleasant but, according to Northern Ireland star Ivan Sproule, it's a fight he and each and everyone of his team-mates have to meet head-on, the flying winger giving a typically frank assessment of Hibs' shortcomings.

He said: "It's disappointing, a frustrating start to the season but we cannot shy away from the fact we are bottom of the table and struggling a bit. There are no hiding places, everyone has to stand up and be counted."

Thanks to the break for Euro qualifying matches, Calderwood, Sproule et al will have two weeks to reflect on the misery they've largely brought upon themselves, Hearts well worth their win but helped on their way by what those in the Easter Road camp considered soft goals.

If Paulo Sergio's players had enjoyed more possession over what was a drab opening 45 minutes, they'd contrived to create little to trouble Graham Stack in the visiting goal.

But, with the prospect of a half-time cuppa, the game changed in an instant, Callum Booth slipping the ball forward to Matt Thornhill deep inside his own half instead of simply giving it plenty of wellie.

Thornhill was oblivious to Jamie Hamill at his back, the defender robbing him and taking a return pass from Ian Black before slipping it into the path of Ryan Stevenson - whose run into the penalty area went unchecked - leaving the former Ayr United midfielder to slam home the opener.

A slight change to Hibs' shape, Sproule moving in off the wing into a more central position in midfield appeared to flumox Hearts on the restart, but they didn't take too long to regain their grip on proceedings, Stack saving well from Stephen Elliott and Hamill before leaving Andy Driver holding his head in his hands as he somehow thrust out a boot to deflect his close-range shot over the target despite having been left lying on the turf as Elliott's shot crashed back off the post.

Stack managed to shovel another Driver effort round the post but to no avail, Andy Webster rising above everyone to power in a header which Akpo Sodje booted off the line only for Eggert Jonsson to slam home. The goal, though, was eventually credited to Webster, referee Craig Thomson indicating the ball had crossed the line before Sodje could reach it.

A two-goal cushion allowed Hearts to play well within themselves as Hibs threatened to lose it, Leigh Griffiths, Ian Murray, Garry O'Connor and Sodje all going into Thomson's book in quick succession to add to earlier yellow cards for Sproule and goalscorer Stevenson. Sergio confessed to having seen some things he didn't like but accepted it was a derby packed with emotion - albeit one which wouldn't have gladdened the hearts of the purists - while Calderwood confessed to being pleased with his side's passion.

But that was perhaps the only difference of opinion the two managers had, both correct in their assertion Hearts deserved to win, leaving Calderwood and his players with much to think about although the Hibs boss insisted his side will return all the stronger for players such as Sodje, Junior Agogo, Isaiah Osbourne and Richie Towell having got some much-needed game time under their belts.

Calderwood remains convinced that his new-look team will improve in time but week by week the statistics are mounting against him to the point his predecesssor John Hughes might well be wondering why he's sitting at home unemployed when there has been little, if any, discernible betterment over the intervening months.

Hearts' unbeaten derby run now stretches to eight, Calderwood having failed to win any of the four in his time as manager but, while the Jambo fans will rightly crow long and hard as such a record entitles them to do, Hibs need to forget what their Capital rivals are doing and concentrate on their own fortunes.

Sproule agreed, saying: "The manager had a few harsh words after the match, he was not happy.

He protects the players but when things are not going right he needs to stand up and pick people out. He picked out one or two. What we saw was not good enough as a whole. We let ourselves down and we are letting ourselves down with those mistakes. In the heads of the manager and players we gave away two soft goals. You need to keep yourselves in the game and coming in at half-time 0-0 gives you a bit of a lift. It seems we are conceding goals right before half-time and that changes the team talk, your emotions."

Sproule, however, insisted this wasn't the time for finger-pointing or playing the blame game, adamant that while there are problems to be addressed there's no need at this early stage to start pressing the panic button. He said: "It's not nice to come and be beaten in a derby and to be bottom of the league. We are going to get negative press but we have to take it on the chin and keep fighting. It's going to be a fight this season, everyone knows it but there's a long way to go. We have made mistakes in previous matches and again in this one. We need to learn from the mistakes and maybe now is the time for a few people to go home and to really start thinking about what we are doing wrong."

Sproule accepted that, as always, it's the manager who comes under pressure when results go bad, being the man who picks the team, decides upon tactics and formations but insisted that didn't excuse the players their responsibilities.

He said: "The gaffer was a frustrated man in the changing room but it comes down to the players on the pitch as well. We are letting him down. He is not our there making mistakes, it's the players.

"We have to stand up and be counted. There is a mental toughness but what you cannot do is start picking people out and fighting all the time. That does not work. There has to be a collective things and a team that sticks together.

"Obviously we are not giving the fans much to cheer about so it's going to be difficult to get them back on our side but what do you do? You just cannot give up, you have to keep going."

Taken from the Scotsman

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