Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has urged his Easter Road stars to turn up the heat on their top-six rivals by taking all three points from Motherwell tonight.
The Capital club currently occupy sixth place in the SPL table, just one point ahead of Dundee United and two in front of Kilmarnock and Aberdeen with only three games remaining before the split.
However, while Hibs have been forced to play “catch up” in recent weeks with their matches completing the weekend’s fixtures, they are first into action this time round giving them the chance to increase their advantage over the others chasing a top-six finish with the Dons and United not playing until tomorrow and Sunday respectively, while Kilmarnock are idle as St Mirren take on Hearts in the Scottish Communities League Cup final on Sunday.
Fenlon said: “It’s important to go and win the game as that ramps it up for everyone behind us and, hopefully, the teams above us. But I am sure they are looking at it and saying if we do not win it gives them an opportunity.
“It has been like that over the past three or four weeks when we’ve been playing catch-up, but now we are on the other side of it and have the chance to put pressure on the others.”
Hibs travel to Lanarkshire on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, but their last three SPL matches have ended in draws, with Fenlon and his players convinced two refereeing gaffes – a penalty that never was at Tannadice and Leigh Griffiths’ much-publicised disallowed “goal” in Sunday’s derby – have robbed them of four precious points.
Fenlon, though, while admitting it was vital Hibs turn those draws into wins over the next three games, insisted the disappointment of last weekend has already been forgotten.
He said: “We have moved on. We were disappointed we did not win the derby, but now we have a massive game coming up.
“It’s incredibly tight in the league and a few of us are getting to the stage where one mistake can probably cost you. People ask what do you need to make sure you are in the top six and I’m not sure because it is all so tight.
“If we can convert two draws into two wins over the three games then we’ll be hoping that’s enough to see us through, but we have three really tough games to play.”
Inverness Caley at home and Celtic away follow tonight’s match against Stuart McCall’s second-placed side, but Fenlon insisted his players are capable of emulating the victory they enjoyed at Fir Park earlier in the season even if the game was far tighter than the 4-0 scoreline might suggest.
Pointing out how the Steelmen later came back from two goals down to win at Easter Road, he said: “We know we are more than capable of going there and winning.
“I said at the start I thought Motherwell would be up there because, although they have lost one or two, they have had a settled team and all their key players seem to remain fit.”
Reflecting on the fact the teams have shared an astonishing 34 goals in their past six matches at Fir Park, Fenlon believes tonight promises to throw up another cracker.
He said: “I think we will have two teams who will go and try to win the game.
“The two we’ve had so far have been decent with plenty of action in them.”