Neil Lennon fears Hibernian have reached a plateau following their recent progress.
Hibs have gone five matches without victory and sit in seventh place in the Ladbrokes Premiership ahead of Saturday’s trip to Kilmarnock.
The frustrating period comes after Hibs had another promising start to the season after winning the William Hill Scottish Cup, Championship and finishing fourth in the Premiership in the past three seasons.
Lennon attributed the run to injuries and a dip in form and confidence but he also suspects that the summer departures of the likes of John McGinn, Scott Allan and Dylan McGeouch are catching up on his team.
“We’re not a million miles away but there’s no doubt the changes that were made over the summer, we lost some really good players who were very difficult to replace,” Lennon said.
“We have just got to work through it, and we are. We have analysed it but you don’t want the players to over-think things. They have got to be free and I will take the responsibility off them, but when the game comes around they have got to take responsibility on the pitch.
“There’s no issues, there’s no fall-outs, it’s just a phase for a month or so that’s not been like us over the past two or three years. While it’s difficult and hard to take, it’s the reality and you have to accept it.
“It’s impossible (to keep improving when you lose players). If you took (Scott) Brown, (Olivier) Ntcham and (Tom) Rogic out of the Celtic team, would they be as good?
“We had a really good crop of players last year but we knew they would move on. That’s just the reality, it’s not always going to be champagne football. I would love it to be that way, but that’s not the reality.
“So we have to knuckle down, enjoy what we are doing, accept the challenge that is in front of us and take it on board. And people need to show a bit of patience at times because it’s not always rosy in the garden.”
Lennon admitted Hibs might have hit a “glass ceiling”.
He added: “How do you replace John McGinn? We don’t have the finances or the nous to do that. You have to bring other players on, like (Stevie) Mallan, and develop them. And in the meantime try and keep performances and results the right way.
“It’s frustrating because we have hit a plateau, there is no question of that, and that was always going to happen because the rise of the club over the past couple of years has been very much an upward spiral.
“However, we still have got some quality players here, international players, entertaining players, young players.
“They are a good bunch but they are still relatively inexperienced. I think we miss some inspirational players and we are looking to find some new ones.
“So it’s time for them to step up and create their own legend at the club.”
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