Hibernian: Malaise mounts pressure on boss Nick Montgomery

Hibernian: Malaise mounts pressure on boss Nick Montgomery

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Prior to Sunday’s 4-0 home defeat by Aberdeen, Nick Montgomery’s record as Hibernian head coach had a noticeable symmetry.

Twelve wins, 12 draws, 12 defeats. But, with the 13th loss, it’s not just the statistics that seem to be turning on the former Scotland youth midfielder.

The manner of Hibs’ defeat was stark. As he pointed out, for around half an hour, they looked bright and very much up for the challenge. Two Aberdeen goals later and it was like the roof had caved in.

The 42-year-old stressed to his players the importance of the next goal, but seven minutes into the second half, they were three down and home supporters started heading for the exits.

Aberdeen’s added-time fourth only served to compound the misery for those who had stayed. And, indeed, a few refused to leave until well after the whistle in a public display of anger.

“We let them down today,” Montgomery said. “It’s a difficult result.”

It’s a result he can ill afford as he attempts to placate an increasingly sceptical support.

Montgomery cited the numerous occasions in which his side have led only to drop points through late concessions.

The most damaging was Motherwell’s late equaliser at Fir Park that consigned Hibs to the Scottish Premiership’s bottom six.

Hibs subsequently put out a statement insisting results and performances must improve. With two defeats out of three since, that statement has only gained notoriety.

However, while the pressure mounts on the Leeds-born former Sheffield United stalwart – appointed from Australia’s Central Coast Mariners in September after Lee Johnson was sacked – is continually replacing the manager the answer for Hibs?

Since Neil Lennon’s near three-year spell in charge ended in early 2019, Hibs have had five permanent bosses.

Paul Heckingbottom, with 32 games in charge, and Shaun Maloney, with 19, had particularly short spells. Jack Ross’ win percentage of 49% and reaching two cup finals was not enough to save him, while Johnson left months after taking the side into Europe.

“I’m still 50-50,” former Hibs player and manager John Hughes said on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound. “The jury’s still out on Nick.

“I’m still wanting to give him the chance, because Hibs, over the last four, five years, keep going through manager after manager after manager and it cannot be the manager.

“He’s working with other guys’ players. You have to give him the chance. I don’t know if he’ll get that chance and I don’t know if he’ll get the opportunity to build his own team.”

Protests & pain as atmosphere turns toxic

A general view of Easter Road

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Brian McLauchlin, BBC Sport Scotland at Easter Road

After a season that promised so much, those hardy Hibs fans who turned up to watch their team against Aberdeen in the sunshine were rewarded with one of the most dispirited performances of the campaign.

With each Aberdeen goal, the pain became even more visual on the faces of those sitting in the home dugout.

And the fans made their feelings known at both half-time and the final whistle with loud booing. A small group of Hibs supporters staged a sit-down protest in the bottom corner of the East Stand.

In the past, the board were very quick to pull the trigger when results and performances had been poor but have struggled to find a manager that can bring the success they so desire.

Montgomery, like his predecessors, has been backed with hard cash to bring in players. So why hasn’t it worked? That is the burning question to which fans and board will be seeking answers in the next week or so with two matches left to play.

Can seventh save Montgomery?

Of course, Hibs’ season is not over. Sunday’s result took Aberdeen above both the Leith side and Motherwell, but finishing as best of the rest in the bottom six is still very much a possibility for Montgomery and his players.

They play Motherwell at Easter Road on Wednesday as Aberdeen host relegated Livingston. Hibs finish away to Livingston next Sunday, while Motherwell host St Johnstone and Aberdeen visit Ross County.

Aberdeen are only a point above Motherwell and two in front of Hibs – and putting themselves to the top of the order could at least buy Montgomery some time.

A significant squad overhaul is expected this summer, with five players on loan and a raft of youngsters returning from loan spells.

Defensive stalwarts Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson are leaving, while out-of-contract veteran goalkeeper David Marshall may follow.

Former Aberdeen manager Willie Miller commented: “Coaches spend way too much time trying to emulate the very top clubs, the Manchester Cities of this world, when they don’t have the raw material at hand.

“It’s about other aspects of it. It is about characters, it’s about determination, it’s about leaders. There was very little of that on show from a Hibs point of view and that’s what will be concerning for the directors and for the owners of this club.”

Hibernian players

SNS

Related Topics

  • Scottish Premiership
  • Scottish Football
  • Football
  • Hibernian
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