SHAUN MALONEY insists he is not concerned after his Hibs players failed to register a shot on target in Wednesday night’s goalless stalemate at Fir Park.
Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly finished the game without having to make a save as Graham Alexander’s men played the final 20 minutes a man down, with Hibernian failing to make the most of their numerical advantage to seal the three points.
Christian Doidge was played through towards the end but the centre-forward blazed his shot high and wide of goal when he really should have squared it to Kevin Nisbet for a tap-in – yet Maloney left Lanarkshire with plenty of positives to take from his side’s display.
“I was actually really pleased with our performance,” he said. “We’re slightly disappointed we didn’t take one of our chances but in these conditions I’ve got to be very pleased with how the team played.
“We maybe weren’t as patient as we could have been. When a team goes down to 10 men you want to attack as much as you can but we created a big opportunity during that period. The team we were playing are in fourth and those games can be decided on fine margins.
“I can’t criticise my forward players when they miss a chance. I ask them to be brave and be aggressive in the final third, so when a chance is missed I can’t criticise.
“No [I’m not concerned we had no shots on target], not really. We had enough chances to win the game. Ideally, I’d love as many as possible but in terms of the chances, I can’t ask for too much. Whether we take them or not, I can’t criticise.”
A victory for Hibs would have seen the Leith outfit leapfrog Motherwell in the standings and occupy fourth place but Maloney does not see the draw as a missed opportunity.
With Hearts losing 2-1 to Celtic at Tynecastle, the former Scotland internationalist pointed out that his side have narrowed the gap with their Edinburgh rivals as he pondered the progress made since he replaced Jack Ross as manager at Easter Road.
“We get a point closer to Hearts in third but it was the first opportunity we had to go fourth,” he said. “Considering where we were six weeks ago when we were in seventh, to beat Aberdeen and beat Dundee United away – both were above us – we can be pretty happy. I think it’s a positive start so far.”
Norwich City loanee Rocky Bushiri found himself sternly examined by Motherwell striker Kevin van Veen and the pair’s ongoing physical tussle was a point of interest in what was a largely drab affair, but the centre-half passed it with flying colours.
With Paul Hanlon and Ryan Porteous still to return from injury – and Lewis Stevenson and Josh Doig both featuring at left centre-back for spells at Fir Park – Maloney is confident he is well-stocked at the back for the remainder of the campaign.
“Rocky was outstanding tonight,” Maloney added. “He was up against their biggest threat and he was excellent.
“I was really, really pleased with all of the back three. I thought Lewis Stevenson was superb and so was Paul McGinn on his first game back from suspension. But Rocky was a stand-out.
“It’s definitely an option [for Doig to play more centrally]. We have a few options at left centre-back now with Josh, Lewis and Paul can play there. It gives me options and Demetri [Mitchell] can play either side too.”
Motherwell manager Alexander was on the receiving end of a red card as he made his feelings about Liam Donnelly’s dismissal known to the referee.
The 50-year-old was pleased with his team’s overall performance though, insisting that they were good value for a point at the very least.
“We held out with 10 men but we weren’t holding out before that because we were the team that had the chances and made the keeper make saves,” he explained. “I don’t think we conceded a shot on target so I thought we played really well.
“When it goes to 10 men with 20 minutes to go it gets tough but even then we still threatened a couple of times to score the winner.
“I’m really proud of my players tonight. I thought they were excellent against a team that make you work really hard and my players just kept running and running. They were disciplined and played the game right and a point is the least we deserved.
“The referee is there to make decisions. I thought the second yellow was harsh. Liam has made two fouls all game – we saw one of their centre-halves making foul after foul in the first half and just get a warning. That’s where my frustration was.
“I was frustrated. I thought Liam was harshly dealt with after having a really clean game. I didn’t see any malice in the game and I was making my viewpoint made, but obviously I’m not allowed to.”