Former Hibs midfielder Lynch feels club are better than position suggests

Sean LYNCH today warned his St Mirren team-mates not to be fooled by Hibs' lowly place in the SPL table as he tipped his old club to be one of those fighting it out for Europe come the end of the season.

A miserable few months in which the Easter Road outfit have won just four of their 15 League matches so far have resulted in the Edinburgh outfit dropping to eighth, 11 points behind Capital rivals Hearts, who lead the chase to catch Rangers and Celtic.

But more worrying for Hibs supporters is the fact Colin Calderwood's players sit a mere five points off bottom spot, the fact they've failed to beat any of the four teams below them - St Johnstone, St Mirren, Aberdeen and Hamilton - a major factor in their fall from grace.

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Saints themselves inflicted defeat on Hibs, Craig Dargo's goal in Paisley helping precipitate the departure of former boss John Hughes and they'll arrive at Easter Road on Saturday looking for a repeat performance knowing another victory will see them leapfrog the Hibees.

However, Lynch, while admitting to being surprised to seeing Hibs so far down the table, insisted it is only a matter of time before they begin to climb up the rankings.

The former Hibs kid said: "I don't think the position they are in at the moment reflects what a good team they are. They remain one of the top sides in the SPL and I don't expect them to still be down there come the end of the season.

"By then I'd expect to see them in the top six and maybe even challenging for Europe." While the 23-year-old midfielder accepted some may regard his prediction as somewhat hollow given events thus far, he pointed to the remarkable rise of Kilmarnock under Mixu Paatelainen, the manager who released him from Easter Road in the summer of 2008.

Tipped as relegation favourites by many before a ball was kicked, the Rugby Park side have fought their way into the top six, enduring just one defeat in their last six matches which included a run of three successive 3-0 wins.

Lynch said: "I know the SPL gets a bit of criticism over the standard of football but I genuinely believe it is a very competitive League this year. There's not much in it in many matches.

"As Kilmarnock have shown, any team that can put a wee run of games together, perhaps win three on the trot, finds themselves firing up the table. I think we saw what Hibs are really capable of when they went to Ibrox the other week and beat Rangers 3-0.

"It's not every team who will go there and win so convincingly. On their day they can more than match any team in Scotland, it's perhaps just finding that bit of consistency that every club is seeking.

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"You can't under-estimate Hibs, they still have great quality in the squad when you consider they have the likes of Merouane Zemmama and Darryl Duffy who have yet to kick a ball for them this season.

"Once those two return the squad will be strengthened and I am sure you will see Hibs kick on."

But even without Zemmama and Duffy, Lynch firmly believes Calderwood has the players capable of mounting a charge up the table, particularly with Derek Riordan and the under-fire Colin Nish.

He said: "Deeks is obviously one of the best strikers in the SPL, there's no question at all about that. But the criticism Colin seems to be getting at present is, to me, not justified.

"If you look at his record he's been a proven goalscorer over the years.

"He got 12 last season, including the five in Hibs' last two matches that earned them their place in the Europa League.

"He's maybe not been getting the goals so far this season but as everyone knows it often just takes one and a striker is up and running.

"I'm sure the same will happen for Colin and once Derek and him are knocking them in Hibs will be moving up." Having said that, however, Lynch insisted he and his team-mates will be doing their utmost to ensure any Hibs revival is delayed by at least another week by a Saints side which, he admitted, had enjoyed a somewhat "up and down" season following their return to the top flight.

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Impressive results such as a draw at home to Dundee United - with Lynch scoring the opening goal - on the first day of the season, a win at Tannadice and a point taken from Motherwell along with victories over Hibs and Aberdeen have been tempered by disappointments elsewhere.

But throughout, Lynch insisted, Danny Lennon's players have shown admirable resilience, pointing out how it took an injury time goal from Gary Hooper to earn Celtic the narrowest of victories at St Mirren Park recently. And much of that, he claimed, was down to the performances of former Cowdenbeath players Darren McGregor and Gareth Wardlaw, Lennon raising many eyebrows by signing the pair he had worked with at Central Park.

Lynch, however, believes McGregor and Wardlaw have not only vindicated Lennon's decision to take the pair west but proved to one and all they can hack it at the top level.

He said: "Darren and Gareth have been terrific, I don't think anyone can disagree with the fact they are SPL players. Actually, they've probably been our best players.

"It's not been a case of them finding their feet but proving themselves to the Press, who continually questioned their ability, and St Mirren fans. They probably had a bit of added pressure on them as a result but they have been outstanding, they are good players, they've proved themselves to their doubters, answered the questions that were being asked and shown they are more than capable.

"I don't know if all of that put any doubts in their minds, having those questioned asked all the time but they've proved by their performances they have a bit of quality and now, hopefully, they'll be able to kick on."

Although he has been back at Easter Road as a Falkirk player since being released, Lynch, who was one of four Hibs kids who were part of Scotland's squad for the Under-20 World Cup in Canada a few years ago, admitted he was relishing returning again in the black and white of St Mirren. But, he insisted, he won't be the only one with former Hibs stars David van Zanten, Patrick Cregg and Jamie McCluskey now all in the Saints' ranks along, of course, with manager Lennon.

He said: "As a professional I think you always relish going back to an old club.

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"I can only speak for myself, but I don't think it's a case of ever going back believing you have something to prove.

"I've always enjoyed the whole occasion of playing at Easter Road, there's a great atmosphere which, I am sure, will be even better with that huge new East Stand having opened.

"It will be our first time playing there since the stadium was finished which is, again, something to look forward to."