PAUL HANLON admits that the criticism aimed at the Hibernian players by their manager Paul Heckingbottom on Wednesday night hurt, but he believes the way they fought back from two goals down to get a draw against Livingston shows they are fighting for their boss.

Heckingbottom let rip at his players during the half-time interval at Easter Road, then accused them after the game of not being 100 percent committed in the first half of the match.

Hanlon says that was hard to hear, but he is adamant that the players are trying their best to get things right and take the pressure off their embattled coach.

“It does sting as it is not something you want labelled at your team,” Hanlon said.

“We are all in it together. It is easy to say that after the first half but in the second half it was there for everyone to see we had a bit of fight and dig.

“The easy thing to do would be to lie down and accept defeat. But we didn’t do that. That shows there is a bit of character in the squad.

“The easy thing to do was to not go for it and accept that was happening and feel sorry for ourselves. But we never. From the start of the second-half we were all over them and we were pushing as hard as we could to get back into the game and I thought we had a few chances to score more goals.

“There is no way it is acceptable for us to even drawing that game at home. We should be winning it for where we want to be as a club. But if you look back at the game and being 2-0 down then you need to take the positive from it.

“The manager said his bit at half-time, but were 2-0 down and knew exactly what we had to do. On another night we might actually have come back and win the game.”

Was joy at a home draw with Livingston, no matter how it was snatched from the jaws of defeat, not merely a sign of Hibs’ regression of late though?

“I don’t think we are going back the way but it is a completely new squad,” Hanlon argued. “There has been a lot of changes this year and it will take time to adapt. I feel we have gelled a lot more in the last few weeks. We are a lot more comfortable around each other.

“We definitely need to stand up and be counted. We are not in the position we want to be.

“I do believe we are not far away. There have been a lot of games recently when we should have taken three points. It is just a case of keeping the head down, working hard and not letting that belief go.

“We are all working to put the results right.”

That being said, Hibs still haven’t won a match over 90 minutes since edging out St Mirren by a single goal on the opening day of the season. You may think that the last team they would want to run into after such a barren run would be champions Celtic, but Hanlon believes tomorrow’s Betfred Cup semi-final may just be the perfect time to end that miserable spell with the pressure off their shoulders.

“When you put it like that there is no hiding from it,” he said. “You need to be winning games.

“We are putting ourselves in good positions and that is the most frustrating thing. We should have more points on the board, but it is easy to talk about it.

“Now we have a chance to reach a major final. What more incentive do you need?

“There is no motivation needed from the manager and no motivation needed from the fans. It is a chance to get to a cup final and you know you are against top quality opposition where if you don’t perform that it will be very difficult for you. It is one where you need less motivation.”

Meanwhile, Hanlon has defended teammate Scott Allan after Livingston manager Gary Holt accused the Hibs midfielder of cheating to win the penalty that ultimately led to Hibs crawling off the canvas on Wednesday evening.

Allan himself scored the spot-kick before Martin Boyle’s late goal salvaged a draw, and Holt was furious with Allan for going down easily in the area.

But Hanlon said: “I think cheat is a strong word. He is an honest player and a player that everyone in Scottish football wants to see do well because he is an entertainer and he is a joy to play with when he is firing on all cylinders.

“It is not something I would describe him as.”