Hibs star Liam Miller reckons countryman Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan can get the goals to fire club into third

LIAM MILLER today claimed there are two very good reasons why Hibs hopes of overhauling Dundee United in the race for third place shouldn't be dismissed – strikers Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan.

The Tannadice outfit have installed themselves as red-hot favourites to be dubbed "the best of the rest", their 4-2 win at Easter Road helping them open up a mammoth eight-point gap on John Hughes' players.

However, although only six League matches remain, Republic of Ireland midfield ace Miller (pictured) insisted no-one at Easter Road has given up hope of reeling in United, particularly while Stokes and Riordan are about.

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Between them the Easter Road hitmen have bagged 34 goals this season, Miller's countryman Stokes notching 19 of them, his total reduced by the SPL's Dubious Goals Panel which has accredited his recent strike against Falkirk to the Bairns Marc Twaddle, and setting his sights on a minimum of 25 before the curtain finally comes down on this campaign.

Today Miller claimed that if Stokes can live up to that aspiration then maybe, just maybe, he and his team-mates can upset the odds which, he admitted, are heavily weighted in United's favour.

He said: "Anthony may be looking for 25 goals but hopefully he'll get even more than that. All credit to him, he's been banging goals in all season and it would be nice to think he'll continue to do so and help us to a few more wins.

"Anthony and Derek aren't too far off one another in the goal-scoring stakes. Derek has also got a few match-winning goals, some fabulous strikes and if they can get a few more between them over the next six matches then we will have a chance."

The former Celtic, Manchester United and Sunderland star conceded, however, that Hibs need an immediate change in fortunes, Hughes' side having only won twice in their last 12 matches, a run which has not only seen them slip behind United but crash out of the Active Nation Scottish Cup at the hands of First Division Ross County.

United, of course, will be in Scottish Cup action this weekend, facing Raith Rovers at Hampden on Sunday, presenting Hibs with the opportunity to cut the gap to five points – the Tayside club complete their pre-split programme at home to Rangers on Wednesday – when they travel to play Hamilton at New Douglas Park tomorrow. And that's exactly where Miller came in, making his debut just days after Hughes had completed one of the signing coups of the season in snapping him up as a free agent after he'd been released by Queens Park Rangers.

Miller watched from the bench for an hour that day, replacing Kevin McBride with Hibs already 2-0 down having fallen behind to a Simon Mensing penalty and a strike from former Easter Road star Mikael Antoine-Curier in the opening 12 minutes. And, although Hibs wreaked revenge with a 5-1 hammering of Billy Reid's side in Edinburgh – Stokes and Riordan each scoring twice – Miller insisted he's anticipating nothing less than another tough match tomorrow, revealing little has changed about the SPL since his days north of the Border with Celtic.

He said: "I enjoy playing up here, but the SPL is a very tough League and we know how hard it will be at Hamilton. I remember that first game well, we didn't play well and were punished for it.

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"I was just in the door, everything was new to me but now I know the lads inside out and they know me. I'd say that last match over there was an off-day for us but we know we'll have to play well tomorrow if we are to win."

Many would say Hughes' players have had too many off days recently but, Cork-born Miller insisted, last weekend's clash with former club Celtic, a match settled in the Hoops' favour only thanks to a contentious Robbie Keane penalty, highlighted the fine line which exits between success and failure in Scotland's top flight. He said: "Like the supporters we players want to win games, but you can't forget there's another team on the pitch looking to do the same and you can always look back at games and say we could have done this or that.

"We worked really hard against Celtic, on another day we could well have got something out of the match. We were unlucky not to do so, but the positive we can take is that we matched them."

Even so, the record book shows another defeat for Hibs but, Miller claimed, he and his team-mates continue to focus on Dundee United rather than glance nervously over their shoulders at fifth-placed Motherwell, two points behind but eyeing a trip to Celtic Park on Tuesday as they complete their pre-split schedule. He said: "It's out of our hands at the moment but third place isn't done and dusted just yet. Mathematically we still have a chance and while that is there for us we have to dig in, forget about others, look after ourselves, take as many points as possible."

Should United win on Sunday there's also the possibility that the thought of a Hampden final in mid-May may act as something of a distraction for Peter Houston's side over the course of the next few weeks while Miller and his team-mates' sole focus will be on League business. He said: "Football can change very quickly, a couple of wins can change things entirely but the important thing for us is to get the three points tomorrow and forget about what other teams might do.

"Obviously, the Scottish Cup semi-finals is where we'd all been hoping we'd be playing this weekend but it wasn't to be. We all know where we want to finish the season, there are still a lot of games to go so you never know.

"It would be nice to get a few wins under our belts, starting tomorrow, and if we can play as we did against Celtic then, hopefully, we'll be coming back to Edinburgh with a positive result."