Hibernian manager Nick Montgomery praised Paul Hanlon after the experienced defender returned to help his side to a clean sheet in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Livingston.
Martin Boyle’s first-half goal put Hibs in front but they had to weather a storm in the second half as the hosts threw balls into the box.
Montgomery hailed Hanlon, who was making his first start since mid-October, and his centre-back partner Will Fish, who were both impressive in a tight match.
He said: “I thought the whole back four stood up really well. It was a real team performance.
“You can’t come to places like this and have passengers because you know you’re going to have to pick up those second balls and win those direct balls at the throw-ins, corners and free-kicks.
“They’ve got some real quality and some real height.
“Paul coming back into the team, I thought he was solid. Him and Will Fish. I thought he led the line really well and there was also big character from Will Fish too as he had a pretty big cut on his head and got stitched up at half-time and continued to head those balls.
“The wind was swirling around and it was really difficult conditions but it was important we stayed composed. We didn’t get dragged into a fight and I thought we played some really good stuff in the second half.”
The victory moved Hibs above Edinburgh rivals Hearts and into fourth, but Montgomery insisted he is only thinking about his own side as he praised their togetherness.
He added: “I don’t really concentrate on anyone else. I just concentrate on ourselves, but we know that if we win games of football, that’s going to lift us up the table.
“It’s important in a good team that you know the moments when you have to stick together and fight and get through situations that are a bit uncomfortable. I thought we did that.
“But the team also has quality. We’ve got a good team spirit and a good camaraderie and everyone has seen that. In the first week when I came in and I got to know the players, I could see that they all care for the club.”
Livingston boss David Martindale was frustrated that his side were not awarded a penalty after Kurtis Guthrie went down under a challenge from Joe Newell in the first half.
He said: “The disappointing one for me is there’s one in the first half where Kurtis Guthrie is fouled and Grant (Irvine) has not had the opportunity to go to the screen.
“We got told Kurtis initiated the contact but I’m not sure that’s my view on it. I’m a wee bit disappointed that Grant’s not had the opportunity to go and look at that.
“You’re then allowing VAR to decide and you’re not allowing the on-field referee to use the technology to decide. That’s what I want to happen in football. If there’s any dubiety at all.
“It’s all subjective but it shouldn’t be subjective to someone sitting in a sterile room who isn’t watching the game. So I’m a wee bit disappointed with that but I’m not making excuses.”