DANNY Handling says Hibs are prepared to scrap for their lives in the bottom six of the Premiership.
A run of a dozen games with only one win has badly dented the side’s self-confidence, but Handling thinks they are not too far away from getting the results they need to reach safety.
Six points clear of the play-off place, Hibs could have that lead cut by the time they play Aberdeen on Monday night. A 2-0 defeat in last Sunday’s Edinburgh derby was a blow to morale, but Handling believes they can put that behind them and achieve more positive results in the weeks to come.
“We have to put the derby to bed,” the 20-year-old forward said yesterday. “It was a massive opportunity for us and to have put them [Hearts] down would have been a great thing for all the boys, but we can’t think about that now.
“The boys have never thought we were too good to be involved in any relegation battle. We know now it’s definitely something we could face. We don’t want that to happen at all.
“It will be a fight, but we’re all up for it, starting on Monday with the game at home to Aberdeen. We just need to try and put the ball in the net. Everything else is there. We defend well at times, and usually mistakes are leading to the goals we lose. Everything else seems to be okay – the finishing part would complete the final third. I’m sure that will come, and we’re striving to do better. We’re lacking a wee bit of confidence but most days in training we’re showing the right things.”
Handling knows that as a striker or attacking midfielder the onus is on him more than most other members of the team to score, but he also thinks the side as a whole have to take responsibility for their failings. “At times it’s our job to put the ball in the net, but it’s a collective thing as well,” he added. “Because as a team if we do that it makes it easier for the strikers. You probably see us score more goals from set-pieces because we’re dominant in the air and have a lot of strong boys in the team. That can take a bit of pressure off.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes could be in line for a surprise comeback in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against St Johnstone.
The Irishman suffered a collarbone injury during the League Cup final triumph over Inverness on 16 March and was tipped to be out for up to six weeks. But he could be back on 13 April for the Ibrox clash against St Johnstone, who conceded two goals to the former Caley Thistle winger during their 4-0 League Cup semi-final defeat by the Dons.
When asked whether he would be back, assistant manager Tony Docherty, who was previewing Monday night’s visit to Easter Road, said: “I can’t comment on that at the moment but we are certainly hopeful he might. He is making a decent recovery. He won’t be back for this one but he is coming on very well. He is certainly progressing better than we thought he would.”
Monday’s return to Edinburgh for Aberdeen follows last Wednesday’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle as they push for second place. However, while frustrated to have dropped points to a side marooned at the foot of the table, Docherty said: “I think there’s now a mentality in the squad that we expect. In our last 12 matches, we’ve won eight, drawn three and lost one. So there’s a winning mentality there.”