Derek McInnes has urged Kilmarnock to make the most of home comforts as they prepare for a “massive” match in the Premiership relegation dogfight.
McInnes bemoaned his team’s lacklustre first-half display in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road as they remained just three points above Dundee United at the bottom.
A 16th-minute header from Will Fish gave the home side the initiative and a second from substitute Matthew Hoppe just a minute after the interval sealed the three points.
A red card for Kyle Vassell, following the intervention of VAR, in the 66th minute ensured all Killie’s second-half improvements – aided by three half-time substitutions – counted for nothing in the end.
However, despite still waiting for an away league win this season, McInnes was more encouraged by his team’s display after the break.
And he hopes being back on home soil will bring out the best in the Rugby Park side next weekend when they host Motherwell, who are one place above them in the Premiership table in ninth.
McInnes, who revealed Killie will appeal Vassell’s sending off, said: “We had some decent moments and had opportunities, but Hibs enjoyed the first half far too easily. Them scoring from a set-piece was also disappointing.
“We thought we should match up, but Hibs were better individually all over the park in the first-half.
“We made changes at half time. I thought the substitutes did well, to be honest. I felt the change of shape helped us.
“But when you lose a poor goal at the start of the second half it makes everything difficult.
“From there on in, I thought we played well until the red card. We had chances, we had a better control of the game. We at least showed a side of us that I expected.
“We showed belief, we passed the ball better, we were far more aggressive but it was too little too late. When you come to Easter Road you need a 90-minute performance.
“We have to try and replicate a lot of our home form next week which is a massive game for all the clubs down at that end of the table.
“Hopefully we can have a positive week, address what needs to be addressed and deal with the game.”
Chris Stokes forced David Marshall into a save with a header from a Kilmarnock corner but it was Hibs who made the breakthrough from a set-piece at the other end after just 15 minutes.
Aiden McGeady, who later limped off with a hamstring injury, swept in a corner from the right and Fish attacked it brilliantly to thump in a header.
Killie needed keeper Sam Walker to keep out efforts from Elie Youan, Ewan Henderson and Chris Cadden as Hibs dominated the first-half and Joe Wright also cleared a Henderson shot off the line.
But Hibs finally doubled their advantage in the 47th minute when half-time replacement Ash Taylor’s clearance of a Jimmy Jeggo cutback rebounded off team-mate Lewis Mayo and fell kindly for Hoppe to score from close range.
The game was not yet beyond Killie at this point but Vassell was then given his marching orders after initially being only booked for a high boot on Marijan Cabraja.
Referee John Beaton was urged by VAR official Steven Kirkland to review the incident on the pitch-side monitor and he upgraded his decision to a red card.
Hoppe twice came close to a second and Hibs’ third before CJ Egan-Riley hacked a Scott Robinson effort off the line in the 90th minute to ensure there was no way back for Killie.
Hibs manager Lee Johnson was pleased with his side’s professional performance, which lifted them into fourth after a sixth league game without defeat, and he admitted the victory was important ahead of meetings with Livingston, Rangers and Celtic.
He said: “We know it’s going to be a difficult run.
“We’ve a tough game against Livingston on the Astro then into two Old Firm games.
“It was important we got the win, it gives us an opportunity over the next couple of weeks.
“On the back of a win, we can keep building on that feel-good factor of the last few weeks.”