Hibs not reining in their ambitions despite worrying league form
While they can still cling to the coattails of the clubs ahead of them, Hibs manager Jack Ross and his players say they have no cause to rethink their ambitions for the season. Not when they still have games in hand, especially when they believe that performances are better than recent results might suggest.
But,considering the upcoming flurry of fixtures, aware of how quickly positive scorelines could polish up league standings, they know they have to start accumulating points if they want to turn those possibilities into something more tangible.
“We go into three games in six days knowing that three positive results will take us into a much healthier position,” explained Ross, who heads into this evening’s postponed Premiership meeting with Livingston with an unchanged squad.
With one win and one draw in the last eight league outings, they have slipped out of the top six. But they remain just six points off fourth place, with two games in hand.
“It’s not like we need to rely on other things happening. It’s an important spell because once we get these games out the way we are back on equilibrium with a lot of other teams.
“We need to take advantage and put ourselves back into, at a minimum, an area we should be in and that gives us a platform to go higher back to where we were for a long period.”
“We still have two games in hand and if we can win them then we are right back in it so I don’t think we need to panic,” added defender Ryan Porteous. “We want to be up there, we want to be in third place, and want to be in cup finals, and semi-finals like last season and play in big games. We have done that for the last year and a half and just because we are not there now, that doesn’t define the whole season. We need to have a good festive period and get some momentum and get back to where we should be.
“It has not been for the lack of performance, we just need to try to find ways to win games. Last year we were consistent with that and we have played a lot worse than recently and won but it is all about winning games and getting the three points. Performances really don’t matter as long as you can get three points. We want to get back into that top six and then the top three and four. That’s where we want to be.”
Finishing third in the league last term and progressing deep in the cup runs, Ross made it clear that he did not want that to be a flash in the pan. Looking for the kind of consistency that boosts credibility and increases the opportunities to win silverware, he and his players set high standards and even after the recent run he sees no reason to lower his expectations.
“No, because I think I’ve been quite open about what I want to do with the club from when I came. I think we’ve hit a lot of these targets. We’ve given ourselves a chance to hit another one in a couple of weeks, in another final. But, in terms of the league, the objective and the opportunity to get there remains the same. We need to be more consistent in terms of picking up points on a regular basis.”
With games coming thick and fast, the points on offer between now and the winter shutdown, in January, are plentiful, and while a little bit of breathing space would have been appreciated, Porteous says that the schedule could allow them to quickly build momentum and give them opportunities to overhaul the likes of Aberdeen, Motherwell and Dundee United and close in on city rivals Hearts ahead of the New Years Derby.
“There are lots of games and the festive period is difficult for everyone and it can really define your season,” conceded Porteous. “We have been off the boil results-wise in the league for a month or so and we need to get going again and when the games are coming thick and fast it always gives you the opportunity to get back quite quickly.”
The cramped end of year calendar often throws up a run of results that elevates some teams but leaves others running on empty as league positions are traded. With matters so tight this term, the Leith outfit know that the ability to piece together a few good wins could dramatically overhaul their campaign.
According to Porteous, the next three matches, against Livingston, St Mirren and Ross County are, on paper, the tussles a side like Hibs would expect to score points form.
“That’s no disrespect to the opposition. But if we want to be third, fourth place every year, we have to be going to places like Livingston and getting three points.
“I do think we have been playing well. Against Rangers we played excellent and didn't get what we deserved and against St Johnstone I thought we played well. So, we are doing the right things. We just need to turn our form into wins.
“We have defended really well this season and I don’t think many teams have caused us too many problems. I think on Saturday we probably got what we deserved because of how badly we had played in the first half. But we are a good, close-knit bunch in defence and we just want to make things right and start getting clean sheets.
“We know we can’t rely on our forwards all the time; on Nizzy, and Boyley and Doidgey to keep scoring goals. We need to keep clean sheets because we know that is the perfect foundation for winning games. If we can get back to that then we can start climbing the table again.”
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