Paatelainen full of praise for SPL young player of month Fletcher

HIBERNIAN manager Mixu Paatelainen was delighted to see Steven Fletcher score the winner for Scotland against Iceland and insisted that it proved he had put the recent transfer speculation behind him.

Fletcher, named Clydesdale Bank Premier League Young Player of the Month for March, was the subject of a failed bid of around 3 million from Celtic in January and he has also attracted interest from a host of other clubs including Spanish giants Real Madrid and English Premiership side Middlesbrough, having impressed for the capital side in recent seasons.

Since then he has recovered from being dismissed in the Scottish Cup tie against Edinburgh rivals Hearts to score twice in his past three games in the SPL before notching his first goal for Scotland on Wednesday.

Paatelainen admitted: "I am very happy for him. It was tremendous, not only for him to score the goal but for it to be the winner. His performance was very sharp and he worked hard as he always does for us. It was nothing new to me, but it was good to see him play so well and get a goal.

"There was some speculation about his future in January and there was interest as there always is in good players. He has done exactly what we expected of him though and has worked hard since then and will wait for the time when the move is right for him."

Paatelainen, right, was named Clydesdale Bank Premier League Manager of the Month for March as his side recorded two wins and a draw from three games, including a vital 1-0 derby win against Hearts at Easter Road. Hibs have also kept four consecutive clean sheets as they look to ensure a top-six finish.

Paatelainen's side travel to Tannadice for today's live lunchtime match to face Dundee United, who sit one place and four points above them, before games away to St Mirren and at home to Rangers which will determine where the club will finish before the split.

The Hibs manager was quick to praise the contribution made by his players over the last few weeks. He said: "Of course it is nice (to win the award]. It means results have been good, but it's not only about me, it's about everyone who is involved. It is the players first and foremost who do the job out there on the pitch. The coaches are there to help them, and give them guidelines, but it's they who do the job on the pitch and they've been fantastic.

"It's very welcome whenever you keep a clean sheet; it's the basis of any good performance and we've been very solid in the last couple of matches. We aim for solid, all round performances and the last few matches have been like that. We can't get complacent, though: you are only as good as your last game and things can change very quickly.

"We now face Dundee United who are above us and are playing fantastically well. They had a wonderful game against Celtic and were unfortunate not to win. We know what we'll be facing and we need to produce our best form both defensively and offensively."

Hibs currently sit in sixth position as the season enters its final weeks before the split. The side's recent form has edged them ahead of Motherwell on goal difference and while Paatelainen admits that his side have under-performed this season, he is focused only on the next three matches.

He added: "The top six is our target and we want to get there and do well once we get there, but the most important thing is what happens against Dundee United and hopefully it will be a good win for us. I've said all along that we haven't been consistent enough this season and the level of performance has not been there on a consistent basis.

"We have been around mid-table throughout the season while other clubs have had some bad runs and some fantastic runs, but we've not had our fantastic run yet. Hopefully this is the start of it, but the matches we have are very difficult. We have beaten these teams before so why can't we do it again?

"I think we can keep a clean sheet against anybody. We have shown that and we can also score goals against anybody. If we put these two things together then we will win matches."