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Calm before a likely storm as mannered manager's humour disarms potentially explosive issue

IT was beginning to seem just like any other home game at Easter Road until Terry Butcher stepped in.

James Collins celebrates scoring Hibernian's equaliser
James Collins celebrates scoring Hibernian's equaliser

It had been the Hibernian manager's call to add height to a team short on time, which helped to produce a late equaliser on Saturday, although his most compelling intervention would have less to do with the league match against Partick Thistle.

That had ended in a draw which maintained an impoverished home record and it is possible to become preoccupied by the Edinburgh club's recent history since they have won just once at home in the SPFL Premiership this season. The most significant moment, though, was from circa 1733, when Butcher entered the media room a little after half past five; enlivening the place with more creativity than his side had shown earlier in the afternoon.

At times the Englishman conducts a press conference as though he is on stage - or has a DVD to flog for Christmas - riffing ably on the observations made about his side. "I think there was a kitchen sink in the penalty area at one stage, we were throwing everything forward . . . I thought Maurice [Malpas] was going to throw me up there at one point . . . The word of the day is perseverance. I could think of something else beginning with 'p' but I probably shouldn't say it . . ."

Such comments tend to lapped up greedily and converted into column inches but it is perhaps a little more instructive to read between the one-liners. Butcher has taken charge of a Hibs team which has been the butt of enough jokes already this term and which will probably appreciate a coach whose humour can be disarming when the knives come out again. His sharp wit was useful on Saturday, then, given that the Easter Road side were unable to prise open a defence which had conceded 14 goals in its last five matches, with the link between Hibs' midfield and forward James Collins often seeming severed and in need of repair. This is a concern which Butcher has inherited from his predecessor but which will shape his intentions during the transfer window next month.

Hibernian remain in the bottom six and it will probably take some heavy lifting if they are clamber into the top half of the league table, even if Butcher is still inclined to apply a light touch when dealing with his players. "The boys haven't faced the manager angry yet," said Owain Tudur Jones, who has been reunited with Butcher at Easter Road after they spent two seasons together at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. "He is still in his settling-in period at the moment. I've had a little look around the dressing room and there are not too many things that can be thrown around. There are no water coolers like in Inverness . . . I got rid of all the stuff he could throw. It is in my house, actually . . .

"It is inevitable that he will have a go if performance levels drop. He's that kind of manager. The quality in our play is something separate that can be analysed differently. We hope that will improve and that is three [matches] under the manager without getting beaten."

That will probably seem like an age for Thistle since the Firhill side had been beaten in their five matches before the weekend. Their return to the top flight has become turbulent in recent weeks - while Thistle have not been able to keep a clean sheet in the league since the first day of the campaign - and that seemed to inform a fragile sense of satisfaction at achieving a draw at Easter Road at the weekend.

"With the way we've been playing and the results recently, we'd maybe have taken a point before the game to be honest," said Ross Forbes, the Thistle midfielder. "Every one of the boys was brilliant, so we were probably unlucky not to get all three points. We did play better football, but we also had to cope with a lot of pressure - especially in the second half with Hibs playing long balls up into our box. We defended well and it was just one lapse of concentration which cost us in the end."

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