Speaking in the wake of his team’s inept performance in the 3-0 defeat to Dundee United, for whom John Daly, Craig Conway and substitute Johnny Russell were the scorers, the one-time Scotland defender cut a forlorn figure.
Calderwood, with only two victories in 17 matches since arriving in Edinburgh from Newcastle United, where he had been assistant coach, stood largely impassive on the sidelines as his hapless defence were thrown into utter panic every time United advanced towards their box. With new signings Martin Scott and Victor Palsson in the team, it was hoped Hibs would be inspired to produce something different, but the outcome was the same as the club’s fans have come to expect.
Without a goal in more than 10 hours of play and having failed to keep a clean sheet since November, Calderwood has serious issues to resolve and surely getting a dominant centre-half comes atop his list of priorities before the transfer window closes. Hamilton Academical’s point against Kilmarnock puts them just two points behind Hibs, having played two games fewer, so the chasm of relegation is looming large below Calderwood’s free-falling team.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game with St Mirren, themselves concerned by relegation fears, the Hibs manager appealed to fans to play their part in arresting the team’s slide.
“We need to ask for something different from the fans, it has got to be a loyalty to the club that is above and beyond what they have done again today,” he said. “They have given us terrific support which is hard to keep reproducing with results and performances being what they have been.”
Asked if the club is now reaching crisis point, he said: “You don’t think about those points, that’s for reflection and debriefing at the end of the season – but we’ll get it right.”
Calderwood admits his team’s shocking defending cost them any hope of picking up points and acknowledged he is worried that there appears no quick fix to their frailties. He added: “It was the correct result because we didn’t defend properly, especially the one in the second half. The first goal was well worked but we’ve got to defend better, you can’t leave a centre-forward scot-free.
“There is no end point, there’s nothing which says it will definitely end then. It can happen in every game but we are trying to address it. We have to work on what to do at stages in the game.”
Given their early endeavour in front of goal, it was difficult to see how Hibs could have gone so long without scoring, but their lack of confidence is acutely evident. Liam Miller wound his way in behind the United defence on five minutes and should have beaten Dusan Pernis, the goalkeeper, but scuffed a shot wide from six yards. Then Danny Galbraith was teed up by a cushioned Colin Nish header on 10 minutes but, perhaps too eager to end the team’s drought, snatched at the ball, sending a volley over the crossbar.
From that early promise, Hibs soon fell apart at the seams to concede the opening goal. A failure to close down Keith Watson on the right put them in trouble initially and when nobody challenged David Robertson as he stooped to feed Daly, the Irishman suddenly had space to steer a low shot beyond Graeme Smith, the Hibs goalkeeper. How the striker did not add to his tally from a gilt-edged chance later in the half, only he will know.
However, it mattered little. Virtually straight after half-time, Hibs’ defence once more committed the football equivalent of suicide. Faced with a simple ball through the middle, the backline effectively collapsed, parting enough to allow Conway space to rush through and lash a shot high into the net.
United substitute Russell, one of the smallest men on the pitch, compounded the misery with 10 minutes remaining by rising completely unmarked to head on target from three yards. His shot was saved by the goalkeeper but the Hibs defence seemed to stand and watch as the youngster poked in the rebound.
Despite their goals, United manager Peter Houston believes the scoreline flattered his side. He said: “I didn’t think it was as comfortable as the score suggested. But we had some great performances from the likes of Craig Conway and Sean Dillon, who I thought was outstanding.”