HIBERNIAN’S Paul Heffernan believes the play-offs have brought added excitement to Scottish football, even if they have prolonged an agonising season of underachievement for his club.
Heffernan’s team go into tomorrow’s second leg of the Premiership play-off with a 2-0 lead against Hamilton Accies thanks to Jason Cummings, who scored both goals in the first leg at New Douglas Park on Wednesday. Last season, the Edinburgh club’s 11th-place league finish would have been enough to guarantee their place in the top flight, but, despite the added insecurity, Irish striker Heffernan believes the play-offs have been preferable to the predictability that would have ensued had they not been brought back.
“I think the play-off has given extra life to the season,” Heffernan said yesterday. “No-one in the bottom six would have had anything to play for without this play-off, because of the way Hearts were deducted points.
“All in all, it’s been a good thing for Scottish football. But, of course, it’s only good if we win.”
Hibs would have finished bottom of the pile and gone down automatically but for the 15-point deduction imposed on Hearts for going into administration. The dramatic collapse of their league form after the turn of the year saw them slide all the way from top-six contenders to second bottom and, after winning at home to Ross County in mid-February, they went 13 games without a victory.
Now, that midweek win at Hamilton has lifted a weight off the club’s shoulders, according to Heffernan. “It’s more of a relief than anything else, because it had been such a long time since we had a win. We don’t want to forget what that feels like.”
Accies manager Alex Neil hopes that a quick goal can unsettle Hibs. “You’ve always got a chance,” he said. “We’ve got a good record at Easter Road.”