HIBERNIAN manager Pat Fenlon has branded his side’s bottom-six finish a failure as he bids to pick the players up for Saturday’s William Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Hampden.
The Easter Road club were officially condemned to the lower tier of the SPL following Saturday’s toothless 3-0 defeat at champions-elect Celtic.
After topping the table briefly in mid-November with an impressive 24 points from 13 league games, Fenlon’s team have slipped down the table alarmingly, collecting a meagre haul of 16 points from a possible 60 in 20 SPL outings since.
They have also recorded just a single league win in 2013, saving their best for the cup – where they have added to last December’s fourth-round win over Hearts by beating Aberdeen 1-0 at Easter Road and Kilmarnock 4-2 at Rugby Park. Despite taking the team back to Hampden on Saturday, Fenlon is furious with his team’s league form during the latter part of the campaign.
Fenlon said: “We’ve got a semi-final to look forward to which is great, but that’s what has been wrong at this football club.
“There has been an acceptance of losing football matches and that can’t continue.
“I’m disappointed we’re not in the six. For me, the season has been a bit of a failure from that point of view. Getting to a cup final, great – but we wanted to be in the top six.
“We started off really well but we’ve not shown enough hunger and desire in the last five weeks to maintain that.
“Personally, winning the cup would not be better because I feel you’re judged on how you do in the league and we’ve not won enough over the last six or seven weeks.”
Hibernian fans are pinning their hopes on the Scottish Cup rescuing what could possibly be another miserable season. The club yesterday revealed that their fans have already snapped up 15,500 tickets for Saturday’s semi-final – impressive figures for a game that kicks off at lunchtime and is being broadcast live by both BBC and Sky Sports.
That is a shade more than Hibs took to the corresponding semi-final fixture against Aberdeen 12 months ago, although Falkirk’s impressive recent form in the First Division has ensured that the cup tie is a close one to call.
Fenlon insists he is looking forward to returning to the scene of one of the club’s most painful results on Saturday.
Just shy of 11 months since they were beaten 5-1 in the Scottish Cup final by Hearts, Fenlon is desperate to atone for that performance.
He added: “The last one wasn’t good but I’m looking forward to going back, I really am. You might get a chance to play in a Scottish Cup final or Scottish Cup semi-final once in a lifetime.
“But fortunately, we are back again the following year so it gives you a great opportunity to try and put that right.
“It is a massive game, we owe our supporters after last year’s disaster in the cup final. We owe them another day to get back there after last year and say ‘can we put that right that?’
“To be able to get to the final two years in a row would be a big achievement for us. We’ve had a difficult cup run this year.
“We’ve had some difficult games. We have to make sure we get over this last hurdle.”
Hibs defender Paul Hanlon, who returned to face Celtic following a five-game absence with a hip injury, admits there can be no excuses if his side fall flat again on Saturday.
He said: “It’s Hampden, the semi-final of the cup and if you can’t get yourself motivated for playing in a game like that then you should not be playing football.
“I’m certain we’ll all be there ready to go.”