Another massive win on Saturday took Hibernian a further two points clear of their city rivals in the league standings and, perhaps more notably, reduced the gap between themselves and the teams who currently stand between them and the possibility of a second-place finish.
According to the Easter Road manager, Neil Lennon, his team are no longer casting anxious glances over their shoulder. Their sights, he said, are now firmly fixed on what is ahead of them.
It is a similar story for their January recruit Scott Allan, who is back for his second spell at the club. He left in acrimonious circumstances in 2015 and some fans were not happy to see him return. But football fans can be fickle and he knows that if he continues to contribute the way he has done since again donning the green and white, his past indiscretions will be forgiven, perhaps even forgotten.
“I’d say the fans were maybe 50-50 about me coming back here, so I want to excite them and get them all onside,” he revealed after the emphatic 2-0 victory. “I just want to be consistent and that’ll hopefully win them over.”
On Saturday he was instrumental as Hibs built momentum. By the time they opened the scoring early in the second half, Aberdeen already looked rattled and that was only magnified the longer the game progressed as they completely overwhelmed guests, or as the Pittodrie boss Derek McInnes put it “absolutely murdered” them. On the back of their defeat of Rangers in their previous outing, it was a significant statement of intent.
Aberdeen, who had been sitting second at the start of the day and were looking to extend their advantage over the capital side to 11 points, were without their captain Graeme Shinnie and that gave a Hibs midfield – that would have been a massive threat anyway – the added breathing space needed to grab ccontrol.
“The balance in our midfield is perfect,” said Allan. “The three of us bounce off each other, we’re all comfortable on the ball and we all have our own strengths.
“There are players behind me here who I know will release me quickly, boys like John [McGinn] and Dylan [McGeouch] who give me the freedom to create things.
“When you play in that No 10 role, some things won’t come off, but it only needs one of them to work and it can change the whole game.
“The team completely dominated the second half and it could have been three or four. We were, by miles, the better team. When we went two up here, it felt so comfortable. I never saw us conceding. We were all brave on the ball and the team with more players like that usually end up winning. In terms of creativity, Aberdeen had a guy following me about the park for the first 45 minutes and I still made things happen. That’s my game and I can play it as well as anybody.”
No-one can accuse the 26-year-old of lacking belief in his own ability but he also believes in those around him and on the evidence of his showing against an albeit under-par Aberdeen side, his faith is well-founded.
There were few failings for Hibs on a day when Aberdeen manager McInnes will have struggled to find any player in his ranks who lived up to his full potential.
At the back, the return of Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon gave them a solid foundation and the longer the match went on the more the midfield outshone their counterparts. Up front, Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi provide the movement and the presence and a willingness to take responsibility and test the opposition keeper that has been lacking for too long.
Maclaren’s industry did not reap the personal reward he was looking for but he did play a key role in the side’s victory. Unafraid to lash a shot at goal all afternoon, he was at it again in the 47th minute and while goalkeeper Freddie Woodman initially blocked, Allan pinged the ball back into the danger area for the Aussie striker to have another attempt. The keeper again dived to save but parried it towards Martin Boyle, who headed into the empty net.
The second goal wrapped things up in the 59th minute. Andrew Considine did not clear the lines quickly enough and Kamberi hit a shot on the turn past Woodman.