BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Lewis Stevenson reckons the Hibernian players desperately need a break from each other as they bid to arrest a horrible slump he traces back as far as Christmas.
Easter Road’s longest-serving player wore a haunted look as he was asked to sum up Hibs’ fourth consecutive league loss following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to hometown team Raith Rovers.
Anthony Stokes’ 25th-minute opener initially built on the midweek Scottish Cup victory over Inverness Caley Thistle that secured a return to Hampden following the devastating body-blow of their League Cup final loss to Ross County.
But highly-preventable goals either side of half-time from Lewis Toshney and Mark Stewart turned the game on its head and left Alan Stubbs’ struggling side with a massive fight on their hands with Falkirk for the coveted second spot.
Only a matter of a few weeks ago, Stubbs was celebrating the fact Hibs were still capable of a treble.
But with the League Cup ending in disappointment and the chance of challenging Rangers for the Championship title slipping away, Stevenson believes a gruelling run of 17 matches since the New Year may have taken its toll.
And the left-back is hopeful the postponement of Saturday’s fixture with Dumbarton because of international duty may be a huge blessing for the capital team.
He said: “The way things are going I think we need a break, because it’s not been going well.
“We’ve been churning out games. I know we had the win in Inverness but the performance probably wasn’t great.
“Something needs to change and I’m sure we’ll all go back and take a look at ourselves and do our best to come back stronger.
“We need to recharge our batteries.
“We’ve seen a lot of each other recently and we have got a good team spirit – but sometimes it is nice to get a wee break from seeing people.
“We’ve almost been in every day for three weeks straight.
“In any job you do – and I know what a great job it is – it is tough going to your work every day.
“We’ll clear our heads and rest our bodies, and hopefully come back stronger.”
An inability to take a high enough percentage of the chances created was again Hibs’ downfall.
They enjoyed 11 corners to Raith’s three and 14 shots at goal as opposed to four for the home side.
But it was Rovers’ two on target that counted and Stevenson admits Hibs’ current run of one win in seven matches could have come earlier.
He went on: “We’ve not been playing well for weeks. Even probably at Christmas, even though we were getting the results, I don’t think we were actually playing well.
“When the defeats come, that’s when you start to notice it.
“But, to be honest, I think it’s been a wee while coming and we need to get out of it quickly.”
A miserable 90 minutes for Hibs was encapsulated in Jason Cummings’ astonishing miss shortly after Raith had taken the lead in the second-half.
David Gray’s low cross left him with an open goal barely two yards out but he somehow struck the underside of the crossbar when it was easier to find the net.
But Stevenson insisted there were no fingers of blame pointed at Cummings in the changing room.
He added: “Those chances are harder than they look. It was a bobbly pitch and it maybe bounced up higher than he expected.
“It does look worse than it is.
“But everybody’s disappointed, not just Jason. We all take responsibility.”