PAUL Heffernan believes Hibernian showed in their draw against Celtic that they can compete against anyone.
Now he wants his team-mates to prove that today by getting a victory against Aberdeen that would take them another place up the table.
The striker, who scored the opening goal in last week’s 1-1 draw before James Forrest equalised for the champions, expects Aberdeen to be one of the main challengers for the runners-up spot. But he is confident that, with a measure of consistency and perhaps a little good fortune, too, his own team can put in an even stronger bid for second place.
“We have definitely taken a boost from the Celtic result – it was a great point against the best team in the country,” said Heffernan, whose goal from an offside position against Neil Lennon’s team was exactly the sort of luck every team needs from time to time. “We’re now full of confidence.
“It was a very disciplined performance and I thought the lads at the back, as well as the keeper, were excellent. People have said in the past that Hibs have been a soft touch, but we showed against Celtic we are definitely not that.
“It will be the same (competitive spirit) again this week . . . Take Celtic aside and there is not much between most of the teams in the league and we will be competitive in every game.
“Aberdeen will obviously be wanting to finish up there – they’ve brought in some very good players and have spent a bit of money in the summer. It will be a very good test for us to see where we’re at. If you look at their squad they’re definitely in the top three, but if we beat them we’ll be ahead of them.
“You have other good teams, like Inverness who have been impressive, and also Motherwell. I’m sure it will be very tight up there.
“You have to be consistent, but if you’re well organised then you have a chance to win every game. Hopefully we can do that and get a bit of luck along the way like we did against Celtic.
“Teams can fall flat after getting a great result like that and that is something we have spoken about because we don’t want that to happen. It’s good that it’s another massive game against Aberdeen, so hopefully we won’t be flat and put in the same committed performance as last week.”
Heffernan has arguably been Hibs’ most important player since joining at the end of August, weighing in with a few goals but also linking up intelligently with a midfield whose defensive qualities were previously more noticeable than anything they could do going forward. But, being an unassuming type, the Irishman argued that they had in any case turned the corner before he arrived.
“The week before I came, they had just beaten Kilmarnock and since then we’ve won three, drawn two and lost one. The team is on a good run and in this league there only seems to be the odd goal between the teams – we seem to be on the right side of that at the moment,” said Heffernan.
“Inverness apart, the team has been very well organised and we seem to be creating plenty of chances for the strikers as well. As a striker that is all you want.”
As well as hoping to help his team go ahead of Aberdeen and into fourth place, Heffernan has another good reason for throwing everything he has into this afternoon’s match: once it is out of the way, he will have an enforced rest in midweek while his team-mates take on Hearts in the quarter-final of the League Cup. “I’m gutted I’m missing out on the Hearts game – I would have loved to play in it,” said the 31-year-old, who scored a hat-trick against the Tynecastle side for Kilmarnock earlier this year but has yet to face them in Hibs colours.
“I played for about ten or 15 minutes for Kilmarnock against Hamilton, so I’m cup-tied. But there will be plenty more Edinburgh derbies this season and I can look forward to them.”