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Lee Johnson urges Hibernian to pick up where they left off in Ross County clash

Lee Johnson is encouraged by Hibs’ progress (Will Matthews/PA)
Lee Johnson is encouraged by Hibs’ progress (Will Matthews/PA)

Lee Johnson is hoping Hibernian’s high-intensity performance against Aberdeen before the international break is an indicator that they are finally ready to ignite after a testing start to the campaign.

The Easter Road side have spent the early months of the manager’s reign integrating a raft of new signings while also dealing with the absence of several key men.

However, Johnson – encouraged by the sight of players starting to return from injury – believes the manner of the 3-1 victory over Aberdeen a fortnight ago is a sign that Hibs are heading in the right direction.

“I thought we looked cohesive in and out of possession in the last game,” said the Easter Road boss. “We’ve had games where we’ve looked cohesive in possession and games where we’ve looked cohesive out of possession but I thought against a good side we put it together better.

“We’ve done a lot of physical work with the boys and physically, statistically, I think it was the best we’ve had in the five years since the club has had GPS.

“It was the highest running metrics we’ve had in terms of intensity, accelerations, decelerations, and that’s important to us because we want to have a high-energy game.

“In terms of the players that have been integrated sporadically between the first day of pre-season and now, we still see a lot of potential in areas of our game where we can improve.

“But to perform like we did in that test hopefully is a positive sign. One swallow doesn’t make a summer so we have to keep doing it and be relentless.”

Johnson is expecting a tough challenge as his team bid to make it back-to-back wins when they visit Ross County on Saturday.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Malky Mackay from what I’ve seen of his teams,” said Johnson.

“I don’t know him personally but I’ve always found him to be a strong manager who has always punched above his weight with whatever team he’s had. I think that’s a sign of a really good manager.

“We’re really respectful of a good, attacking, hard-working side that’s got threats, with pace in wide areas, midfield energy and ability to put balls in the box. We have to be on it.

“We’ve got internationals coming back and we’ve had a big conversation about switching back on to Hibs and our way and making sure we’re focused on Ross County.”

Midfielder Kyle Magennis could be back in the squad for the County match exactly a year on from his last appearance before being sidelined by injury.

“I think Kyle’s got a chance,” said Johnson. “I’m on the edge about whether to sling him in. He’s had 45 minutes and two 65 minutes and he’s training well and moving well. He brings a different dynamic to us.

“Jake Doyle-Hayes has got a little knock and is probably 50/50 so that may have an effect on my team and bench selection going into the game.”