Neil Lennon says Hibs are now looking upwards rather than downwards to Hearts as they seek to overhaul both Rangers and Aberdeen and move into second place.
After last night’s 2-0 derby win at Easter Road with second-half goals from Scott Allan and Jamie Maclaren, the Hibs manager did not decline the opportunity to refer to Craig Levein’s suggestion that Hearts’ Scottish Cup win in January had restored “the natural order” in the city.
Hearts are now looking over their shoulders as they seek to hang on to a top-six place after a run of four league games without a win.
Lennon said: “The gap in the table is huge, and it’s huge on the pitch as well,” said Lennon, after Hibs’ second league victory over their rivals this season.
“They are irrelevant to us now,” he added. “We are looking up the table rather than what’s behind us.
“I don’t want to get in to another verbal spat but when you make these statements they will always come back to haunt you at some stage. It’s come back to haunt him [Levein] after four or five weeks.”
“We’ve got the bragging rights back. For how long, I don’t know.
“Aberdeen are away [at Partick Thistle today] and the gap is a point. Rangers have got Celtic and anything can happen. We’re just pleased we’ve maintained this good form.
“We’ve beaten good teams like Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, drawn with Kilmarnock. With all the razzmatazz of the derby we went in really cold and played brilliantly.”
Lennon complimented Scott Allan for not just his “exquisite” opening goal but for continuing to track back until being replaced by Marvin Bartley after 72 minutes. But the manager reserved his highest praise for Allan’s midfield colleagues John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch, who helped turn the tide in Hibs’ favour after an even first-half.
With new Scotland manager Alex McLeish in the stand, Lennon said McGinn had been “awesome”.
Hearts manager Craig Levein, who made comments questioning Hibs’ temperament before the game, said: “Hibs played exactly as I expected them to. I didn’t think they would do anything different and they didn’t.”
Asked whether the 12-point gap between the rivals signified a current on-field gulf between the sides, he replied: “It’s hard for me to say no because the points tell a story, don’t they?
“I think this game is typical of the way the season has gone for both teams. We didn’t quite manage to gel and Hibs kept at it and got a couple of goals through persistence more than anything else.
“I thought our best players could have been better, mainly up front. We competed toe to toe and did not feel under pressure at all. Losing those goals is sickening.”