Lee Johnson says Europe is in Hibs' sights as they maintain Hearts chase on emotional day for club

Hibs paid tribute to owner Ron Gordon in the best way possible as they ran out 4-1 victors at Livingston to keep the pressure on rivals Hearts in the ongoing chase for third place in the Premiership, with manager Lee Johnson revelling in their performance on “an emotional day” for the club.

In the Leith team’s first fixture since the passing of the US-based businessman, who assumed control of the club in 2019, they honoured him with a minutes’ silence and then the kind of display that would have prompted one of his trademark grins. Bouncing back after Joel Nouble had given the home side an early lead, Elie Youan netted a double before the hosts were reduced to ten men after Jack Fitzwater was shown red. Chris Cadden’s deflected cross made sure of the points, before a late Mykola Kukharevich allowed them to sign off with a comfortable triumph.

“It was an emotional day and I'm just delighted that we got the performance and the result for Ron and the family,” said Johnson, who, along with his players, club staff and invited guests will attend a memorial service for the chairman in Edinburgh on Tuesday. “It was an occasion we can celebrate as a club and it was a fantastic performance from the players but also from the fans today. I really enjoyed the togetherness and the camaraderie that was shown from the first minute all the way through to the celebrations at the end.

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Livingston are a very good side and very difficult to play against. The big man [Joel] Nouble, up front, I really like. He is so tough to control and when they get the ball into him as they did on one or two occasions then it causes real problems. But we stuck with it. Earlier on this season we came here and fell short on battling qualities but you can see the additions we have made and that allows our performances to be a bit sturdier, a bit stronger, and for us to build and show our quality.”

Hibs manager Lee Johnson celebrates the 4-1 victory over Livingston at full time with the visiting fans.Hibs manager Lee Johnson celebrates the 4-1 victory over Livingston at full time with the visiting fans.
Hibs manager Lee Johnson celebrates the 4-1 victory over Livingston at full time with the visiting fans.

While a number of Hibs’ wins this term have come against depleted sides, the Hibs manager says that his men have played a huge part in opponents’ errors. “It is interesting how many players have been sent off against us this season but a fair chunk of those have been for us running in behind and being pulled down,” continued Johnson. “It is a fundamental part of our philosophy and everybody that we bring in to add to that either elongates the pitch or offers that threat in behind.”

It was Hibs’ seventh league game without defeat and sees them five points behind derby foes, Hearts, in fourth spot and eyeing up a place in Europe next term. "Sometimes you need to go through the sticky spells,” added Johnson. “It's part of our journey. I felt there were still signs of performance levels towards the end of the bad run and we've won big this year. Of course Europe is in our sights. We've talked about what we want and we want to deliver regular success. This is our opportunity this season to be successful. We're out of the two cups but the first job is to secure top six and then go from there.”