Under-fire bosses meet in Hibs and Dons clash
The two favourites to be evicted from their posts meet head to head today, as Hibernian make the trip to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen. Grant Barnes previews.
The SPFL Premiership had already sent out two managers’ P45s by this time last season, so it’s no wonder the ‘sack race’ is gathering pace with the season’s second international break right around the corner. Both managers are feeling the pressure despite resting at opposite ends of the table. Two weeks ago, after a Edinburgh derby defeat, it appeared that there was no way back for Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom, fast forward one week and there’s another man in the hotseat.
Since arriving in the Granite City in 2013, Derek McInnes has led Aberdeen to 4 consecutive 2nd placed finishes, a League Cup win and 3 further cup final appearances. You would be forgiven for wondering why McInnes finds himself the bookies favourites to be the first managerial casualty of the season.
The Dons have had a stuttering start to the season which sees them lying in 4th place, 7 points off 2nd place Rangers. The rising gap between Aberdeen and the Old Firm has led to frustration from Dons fans, and the 5-0 hammering at Ibrox last weekend won’t have done McInnes any favours.
Since Rangers were promoted back to the Premiership, Aberdeen have struggled to gain a foothold in the fixtures against their bitter rivals, winning only 2 out of the last 12 against Steven Gerrard’s side. A poor record against both Rangers and Celtic, who Aberdeen have only beaten once in the last 3 seasons, has led to a revolt from Dons fans who believe that they should be challenging at the top of the table.
Over in the capital, it’s been a different story for Heckingbottom’s Hibs. A miserable start to the season has the Hibees lying 11th in the table with the 2nd worst goal difference in the league. A 2-1 defeat to city rivals Hearts led many to believe the writing was on the wall for the former Barnsley gaffer. No player in the Hibs squad has scored more than one league goal this season, and they have struggled to replace some key losses in the summer, with the likes of Mark Milligan and Marc McNulty moving on.
A week is a long time in football however, and it seems the tide may be starting to turn at Easter Road, with a penalty shootout win against Kilmarnock means Hibs will be going to Hampden for a League Cup semi-final, and a spirited performance against Celtic last weekend has seen the mood lift at Easter Road after a drab performance in the Edinburgh Derby. It seemed there was no way back for Heckingbottom after the defeat.
With two teams at opposite ends of the table, Saturday’s game should be a polarizing affair. Hibs are yet to win away from home this season and Aberdeen will be looking to bounce back after a desperately poor performance against Rangers. Both managers are under the cosh and are in need of a big result, which will paint a clearer picture of both teams’ seasons after the international break.