Stuttering Hibs urged to seize chance of four 'massive' games and put Aberdeen and Hearts behind them
A win against St Mirren on Saturday could take them there, depending on how Aberdeen fare against Rangers, but with the Pittodrie side next on the fixture list, Lee Johnson’s men know they have their ambitions in their own hands. Back-to-back victories would ensure they slip in behind the Old Firm and give them the platform they are looking for as they close in on the World Cup break in mid-November. It will be an achievement of sorts, if they succeed, such has been the stuttering nature of their season thus far.
Hibs manager Johnson has described their form as two steps forward, one step back and veteran goalkeeper and captain David Marshall doesn’t disagree. After a four-game winning streak suggested they had sorted early season inconsistencies, a three-game losing streak has set them back. Despite all that, Marshall is encouraged by the fact that none of their main rivals have stolen a march on them, leaving everything to play for before and after the upcoming hiatus.
“It is a focus in terms of getting players back in and getting yourself in a good position,” said Marshall. “We’ve got an opportunity to really put ourselves in a good position so I don’t think we’re waiting to get everyone fit and just looking to push on after the break. We’ve got four massive games and winnable games. We’re looking to put ourselves into third position before the break.
“There’s enough ability in there for us to be targeting third spot. The inconsistencies you expect when new players and a new manager come in, we got that earlier in the season with the cup upset. But I think in the last six, seven games – take the Celtic one out of that – I don’t think we’ve been too far away. We saw Dundee United and St Johnstone as possible big wins so we were disappointed to lose them but, performance-wise, in 90 per cent of the games we’ve been pretty good.
“Aberdeen, Hearts as well, are two of the bigger clubs in the country who expect consistency and expect to be finishing third. Aberdeen have had a change of manager and Hearts have European football, which is a big drain on their squad, and an injury to Liam Boyce. So it’s still there for everyone. St Mirren have done really well, Livingston have started well too, so it’s still up in the air but the longer the season goes and after the World Cup break I think is when we’ll be looking to put a run together.”
The Paisley side had the beating of them in August, when Keanu Baccus’ early goal proved the difference and the clubs’ form since suggests things could be just as tight at Easter Road this afternoon. “It’s going to be a tough game,” said Marshall. “There’s probably been three or four games this season where we feel we have let ourselves down and the St Mirren game was one of them. They’ve been really consistent and for their club to be [level on points with third-placed Aberdeen] is great credit to their manager and how he has started there. But if we perform well we believe we can beat anyone in the league at Easter Road.”