Hibs skipper won't rest on his laurels

HIBS fans had every reason to be cheerful as they left Easter Road having seen John Hughes' side hammer Hamilton 5-1.

It was, after all, the Edinburgh club's biggest win since that heady day almost three years ago when an identical scoreline against Kilmarnock saw Rob Jones lift the Co-operative Insurance Cup.

Furthermore, it was Hibs' best SPL victory since the 6-1 mauling of Motherwell at Fir Park a few months prior to that memorable Hampden triumph, not forgetting, of course, ample revenge for Accies' shock 2-0 win at New Douglas Park earlier in the season.

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Little wonder, then, the supporters had grins as wide as Princes Street is long. But, while Chris Hogg was also sporting a broad grin, the club skipper insisted there was still plenty of room for improvement if he and his team-mates are to meet their manager's new target of a third place finish and European football next season.

Pointing out that all five goals – the opener from Colin Nish followed by doubles from Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan – were notched with only 54 minutes on the clock, Hogg claimed Hughes' players should have been even more ruthless.

"It was all right," he declared as something of an understatement, "but we need to be more ruthless as a team when we are in that position.

"It's hard to carry on as you have been, certain players think the game is won and the focus drifts. For me we have to be more ruthless in that situation, to keep going for the entire 90 minutes and to go for more goals."

There was, however, a certain sense of satisfaction, Hogg describing the defeat at Hamilton away back in September as the lowest point of the season, a result which saw him dropped but one which also sparked an unbeaten run of 12 matches which propelled Hibs to third place and also prompted wild talk in some circles of Hughes' side even challenging for the title.

While finally "going public" with his desire to finish "best of the rest", Hughes has also declared Rangers and Celtic outwith Hibs grasp, although that won't stop his players from trying to get as close as possible to the Old Firm, starting with tomorrow night's match against Tony Mowbray's Hoops in Glasgow.

Hogg agrees with his manager that third place is within Hibs' capabilities but, again, he and Hughes are in unison in advocating a realistic approach rather than wild hyperbole.

The former Ipswich Town defender said: "Is third place realistic? Definitely.

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"Since the start of the season we have had a very realistic approach to where we are as a football club and to where we want to go.

"I think the last few weeks have shown we are still miles away from where we want to be but we are working hard behind the scenes to try to rectify that. But third place is an obvious target, to be up there and play European football would be a great achievement for the club after the last few years.

"Losing at Hamilton was the low point of the season for us, a kick in the teeth but there was also the realisation we were not as good as we perhaps thought we were.

"Winning 5-1 was a nice result for us but again we are not getting carried away, there's still plenty of stuff to keep working on."

Hogg is fully aware tomorrow night's match at Celtic Park will be tough with Mowbray's players attempting to chase down SPL champions and leaders Rangers, the Glasgow side, like Hibs, buoyed by an emphatic weekend victory, namely a 4-1 over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

But, he insisted, Hibs will not only be making the journey along the M8 full of confidence themselves but intent on winning their game of "leapfrog" with Dundee United who, having beaten the Easter Road side at Tannadice to take third place, did so again with their comfortable victory at Falkirk on Sunday.

Aware that others were all too ready to write Hibs off taking just one point from three matches, Hogg said: "Beating Hamilton was a massive positive for us, being able to bounce back after a few weeks where we did not get the results and didn't play that well.

"I'm not really bothered what other people say about our team, let them think whatever they want. We know where we want to go and we saw on Saturday what we can do.

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"You don't often get a 5-1 win in this League, it's so tight it's not that easy so, again, it was a positive for us that we managed to do so, something we can take into tomorrow night's match, a game we'll approach with plenty of confidence and resilience.

"And, to be fair, it hurts to see Dundee United sitting third at the moment. We've been up there for most of the season so it's not nice to see them sitting where we have been.

"From our point of view we want to get back into that position and to stay there for the rest of the season."

Hogg also knows Hibs will head for Glasgow with Stokes, Riordan and Nish brimming with confidence and looking to do a bit of damage to a Celtic defence which has looked less than convincing in recent weeks and with Mowbray now nursing a concern over Dutch defender Glenn Loovens while, having sold Gary Caldwell to Wigan Athletic, he is also without Stephen McManus.

The Hibs captain said: "We've been saying throughout the season someone was going to cop it from us one day, that's the feeling we have had as a team.

"Against Hamilton we clicked and for me Deeks' first goal with the passing and interchanging involved showed what we are capable of.

"It's something we do in training all the time so it was nice to see it come off in a game. I know some people will say Derek's free-kick was more spectacular, that his first was a tap-in.

"But for me it was the pick of the bunch, it came from deep with Stokesy involved early, John Rankin playing it in to the front, a neat flick from Colin, Anthony getting in a good shot which was pushed onto the bar by their goalkeeper before Derek got on the end of it.

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"We know we are capable of scoring goals like that although give Hamilton, who had faced a difficult run of games with extra-time in midweek, credit for getting a goal back and keeping going right to the end.

"You don't sniff at winning 5-1 and, while there were a lot of good performances, we need to be even more ruthless although I also think the boys deserve a pat on the back for getting such a result."