Mark Milligan adamant it is ‘not too late’ for Hibs to enjoy a special season after drawing a line under a period of ‘unrest’ at Easter Road



MARK MILLIGAN has expressed relief at being able to draw a line under a period of ‘unrest’ at Hibernian, insisting there is still ample time to make this a campaign to remember.

The Australian midfielder acknowledges that the shock departure of Neil Lennon last month and subsequent search for his successor created a sense of uncertainty in the dressing room, despite being no stranger to the scenario.

The fact Hibs had endured a five-game winless streak in the Premiership when news of Lennon’s initial suspension broke only served to exacerbate the feeling of disquiet, even if those within the club maintained they were relaxed about the situation.

(Pic: Granada)

Little wonder that Milligan is relishing the opportunity to look to the future rather than dwell on that drama.

A new era at Easter Road began in earnest on Saturday as Paul Heckingbottom oversaw a comfortable 2-0 triumph over Hamilton in his maiden match in charge of the Hibees, already moving them to within three points of the top-six.

“I’ve been in this sort of situation before, when people leave and new managers come in,” said the 33-year-old. “It’s always difficult.

“There was a little bit of the unknown when Neil [Lennon] left, we didn’t know who was coming in and how things would change. It wasn’t an unease, just a little unrest – because you don’t know what is going to happen.

“We went through what we went through. That’s always there. But we can use that experience to spur us on.

“Now that we have a new manager we can just focus on what he wants from us. Everything is clear, it is positive. We have a simple focus again: playing good football and getting results.”

While usurping St Johnstone in sixth spot is the initial priority for Hibs, there is also the mouth-watering prospect of a Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic to come and Milligan believes this season could yet have a glorious crescendo.

“We definitely have the players to turn this season around,” continued Milligan. “We are fortunate that it’s not too late to put things right. We have good players who are willing to learn and we can grow as a team.

“We know we are a better team than the points we have put on the board would suggest.

“You look around the dressing room knowing that, individually and as a unit, we have more to give. Now’s our shot. We’ve started well and need to carry it on.”

A storybook start for Heckingbottom was effectively assured during a heartening first 45 for the hosts, during which there were signs of the philosophies the new head coach has preached; intense pressing, a desire to regain possession high up the pitch and moments of fluency in the final third.

The first goal arrived courtesy of a patient, expansive passing move, with two switches of play in quick succession allowing Daryl Horgan the time and space to whip a sumptuous in-swinging cross from the left flank. The ball drifted into the far corner of the net, with Flo Kamberi wheeling away in celebration, claiming to have got a decisive touch.

Footage is inconclusive but, given Horgan was amenable to Kamberi taking the credit, let’s give the big Swiss striker the benefit of the doubt and say he scored his first league goal since December 16.

Kamberi, a shell of his former self during the latter days of the Lennon reign, was reborn. Hard running, linking up with Marc McNulty and providing a real threat in the final third. He struck the bar with a header following another fine delivery by man-of-the-match contender Horgan.

Hibs did double their advantage prior to the interval when McNulty coolly slotted home a penalty kick after ex-Hearts defender Lennard Sowah had foolishly barrelled into David Gray inside the box.

“You could see in patches what the new manager is trying to implement with us,” added Milligan. “It’s really exciting to look forward to another week or training and information. Hopefully, we’ll get an even better performance next week.”