NOBODY needs to tell Jake Doyle-Hayes that the only stat in football that truly matters is the scoreline, but that doesn’t mean that the Hibernian midfielder can’t take solace from some encouraging signs in their defeat to Celtic on Monday night.

There won’t be many Premiership teams that go to Celtic Park and come out on top in the possession stakes, but new manager Shaun Maloney’s influence was clearly evident in just his third game in charge, with the visitors dominating the ball for long spells, particularly in the second half.

The next stage for Hibs will be to have that possession a little further up the park, and most importantly of all, to develop a cutting edge to go along with their easy on the eye passing style.

An early miss from Kevin Nisbet – where he hit the post from a couple of yards out with the goal gaping – was to prove pivotal, with Daizen Maeda giving Celtic the lead a minute later.

“It was a tough one to take,” said Doyle-Hayes. “I thought we dominated the ball for long spells, which is what the manager is wanting from us.

“We are still learning what he wants, but we had a bit of time with him in the winter break and I think we played in stages against Celtic.

“Obviously, we need to create more chances. But if we score that goal that hits the post, it might have been a different game.

“That happens and they went up the park and scored, but we are also learning the manager and staff and everyone is enjoying it. We’ll keep improving and we will push on.

“That is what the manager wants. He wants us to take the ball under pressure, to trust ourselves and trust other players.

“Everyone did that against Celtic and that’s a tough place to do it. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere. We do it on the training pitch every day and you can see we have the players in the squad. As I said, we’ll just keep pushing on in training.

“We need to create more chances in the coming weeks and I think we will do that.

“We trust everyone in the squad in the changing room and trust ourselves to match teams like Celtic. Even the boys coming off the bench, everyone is putting in a shift. When Celtic had the ball, we worked really hard.

“I like getting on the ball as much as I can and I think the manager has trust in us being calm and patient. It is good and I am enjoying it.”

Despite blowing that early opportunity to pile the pressure on Celtic with the opening goal, Doyle-Hayes refused to blame Nesbit for the loss, saying that it was up to the rest of the team to provide him with the ammunition to make amends as the game wore on.

“You don’t get many chances at these places [Celtic Park] and we have to take them, but it happens,” he said. “Players miss chances. Everyone does it.

“You can’t just have one chance and hit the post. You need to create more. It is tough to do against teams such as Celtic, but we’ll keep improving.

“They are very good. [They have] talent throughout their squad and it is a tough place to play, but I felt we gave a good account of ourselves.”

Hibs have a quick opportunity to get back on track as they take on Cove Rangers at Easter Road in the Scottish Cup tomorrow night, and Doyle-Hayes is looking to go one better than the runners-up medal he picked up in last month’s League Cup Final defeat to Celtic.

“When you get beaten, it is good to get back out as quickly as you can to put it right,” he said.

“It’s a tough game and we can’t loosen up. We know to go out there and be focused to push on and get to another Cup Final.

“Everyone in the changing room wants silverware. That’s our goal and we need to go out and put on a good performance as it will be a tough match.”