Hibs getting back to their best form, says John Hughes

JOHN Hughes has insisted that his team are close to regaining the kind of form they showed earlier in the season. Hibernian have lost their past five matches and fallen to fifth in the league table, but the manager believes that their last two games, against Celtic and Rangers, showed a marked improvement.

"Over the last couple of weeks I've seen our style of play coming back," he said yesterday. "They're passing the ball really well and it's coming back.

"I'm pleased about that. We're doing the hardest thing in football and that's to make the play happen, so you're delighted the boys are taking that on board."

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Hibs' poor spell stretches back far beyond the most recent five games, and encompasses the last Edinburgh derby, in which they lost 2-1 at Tynecastle. They meet Hearts again tomorrow, at home this time, knowing that a win will guarantee them fifth place in the SPL.

With that possibly being good enough to qualify for the Europa League, Hughes is sure his players will be aware of the significance of the occasion. "We know the importance of the match. It's three points we need," he said. "We're still battling it out to get that European spot and if we win it, that's Hearts out of it, so we know the importance of it. Derby games take care of themselves. It's up to us to go out there, keep our emotions in check and to go and play our football."

Players generally understand the significance of derby matches, but in the last game too many Hibs players appeared demoralised or simply insufficiently motivated. But, asked what disappointed him most about that 2-1 defeat, Hughes insisted it was the manner in which the goals were lost, and implied that defence remained the team's principal problem.

"It was the goals that we lost," he said. "They were cheap goals – but you go and watch football at a higher level and you see the same kind of fundamental mistakes. It was the cheap goals we should have done better with. On Saturday we're at Easter Road and it should be a full house. It's up to us to go and make sure we're right at it and go and pick up the three points."