Paul Heffernan: Play-offs are good for the game

HIBERNIAN’S Paul Heffernan believes the play-offs have brought added excitement to Scottish football, even if they have prolonged an agonising season of underachievement for his club.

Paul Heffernan promoting the Scottish Premiership play-off final. Picture: Neil Hanna
Paul Heffernan promoting the Scottish Premiership play-off final. Picture: Neil Hanna

Heffernan’s team go into tomorrow’s second leg of the Premiership play-off with a 2-0 lead against Hamilton Accies thanks to Jason Cummings, who scored both goals in the first leg at New Douglas Park on Wednesday. Last season, the Edinburgh club’s 11th-place league finish would have been enough to guarantee their place in the top flight, but, despite the added insecurity, Irish striker Heffernan believes the play-offs have been preferable to the predictability that would have ensued had they not been brought back.

“I think the play-off has given extra life to the season,” Heffernan said yesterday. “No-one in the bottom six would have had anything to play for without this play-off, because of the way Hearts were deducted points.

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“All in all, it’s been a good thing for Scottish football. But, of course, it’s only good if we win.”

Hibs would have finished bottom of the pile and gone down automatically but for the 15-point deduction imposed on Hearts for going into administration. The dramatic collapse of their league form after the turn of the year saw them slide all the way from top-six contenders to second bottom and, after winning at home to Ross County in mid-February, they went 13 games without a victory.

Now, that midweek win at Hamilton has lifted a weight off the club’s shoulders, according to Heffernan. “It’s more of a relief than anything else, because it had been such a long time since we had a win. We don’t want to forget what that feels like.”

Accies manager Alex Neil hopes that a quick goal can unsettle Hibs. “You’ve always got a chance,” he said. “We’ve got a good record at Easter Road.”