Lewis STEVENSON believes Hibs can use today’s SPL clash with Ross County at Easter Road to kick-start their season and help him finally realise his European dream.
Although still just 24, Stevenson is the Easter Road outfit’s longest-serving player. However, his only taste of European football has been brief appearances in the Intertoto Cup against Danish outfit OB Odense and Elfsborg from Sweden, despite having been in the Hibs squad as a 17-year-old which travelled to Ukraine in 2005 to face Dnipro.
He was again in the travelling party as John Hughes took Hibs to Maribor in Slovenia in 2010, their place in the Europa League only secured with a final day victory away to Dundee United after the Edinburgh club’s scintillating start to the season had faltered badly after Christmas.
It has been a similar story this season with Hibs having made a promising start, only to find themselves hosting Ross County today with just one win from their last six SPL matches.
Stevenson, who will hope to keep his place at left-back today, is confident his side can get their European bid back on track. “I’ve only ever played in the Intertoto Cup but I’d love to get into Europe again,” he said. “A couple of seasons ago we got off to a good start but fell way after Christmas so I’ve been there before and know we have to keep it going rather than falling away again. We are confident we can do that.
“We’ve got a smaller squad but probably the strongest squad we’ve had for a few years. We’ve got a lot of big personalities in the dressing-room, everyone plays their part.”
Stevenson insists Hibs can take heart from the point they picked up at Kilmarnock on Sunday, with the 1-1 draw ensuring Hibs reclaimed fourth spot from Aberdeen, who had leapfrogged them on goal difference with their victory over St Johnstone on Saturday.
Admitting he and his team-mates had got off to the worst possible start in Ayrshire, going behind to a Paul Heffernan strike after just six minutes, Stevenson said: “It was a sloppy goal [to concede]. We’d worked on defending throughout the week so it was disappointing.
“But I thought we showed good grit and determination and, more importantly, it was probably the best we have kept the ball in a few weeks. Today’s game against Ross County is a good opportunity for us to kick on again. We’ve been saying that for a few weeks although it hasn’t quite worked out for us.”
County beat Hibs in Dingwalll earlier in the season and Stevenson believes they’ll arrive at Easter Road determined to ensure such a long journey south at this time of year counts for something. “They’ll have a point to prove, having to be away from their families at Christmas,” he said.
Hibs have skipper James McPake free of suspension, while Jorge Claros will come into the reckoning having been a sub at the weekend. Fenlon explained: “Jorge suffered a badly cut ear at Dundee and has been taking a lot of tablets and we felt that might have affected him as he’s looked a bit tired over the last couple of games.”