Hibs' Brian Graham has no room for sentiment
While the Easter Road side have been quietly and consistently going about the business of trying to wrap up a league title, the Kirkcaldy side, who are hoping that a change of manager can alter their fortunes, have not tasted victory since October and now sit just four points off the relegation play-off place.
But everyone at Hibs will be wary, especially after John Hughes was appointed in place of Gary Locke.
“Usually when a new manager goes in a team gets a big lift,” said Graham, who is keen to get in on the action on a more regular basis and convince his gaffer Neil Lennon that he can add goals to the attacking line. “We know it’s a difficult place to go. But we’ll go with high hopes of getting the three points.
“It surprises me to see where they are because they have a good squad. You look round about them and they have got good players. You obviously don’t know what is going on in the background but it wasn’t to be and they have changed their manager now. I think John Hughes will bring something different to them and I believe he’ll have them right up for this game.
“They’re a club I’ll always hold in high regard but I can’t have any sentiment for them. I played against them for the first time with Ross County at the beginning of the season in the Betfred Cup, and I scored a penalty that day. I got a few shouts from their end for doing that but it was all good.
“In my second season [at Raith] I scored 27 goals under Grant Murray. I really loved it there, to be honest with you. They gave me a springboard to get to the Premiership, which was where I wanted to be. That’s what got me my move to Dundee United.”
Getting back to the top flight is currently his only concern, though, and if that means he has to prolong Raith’s winless run then so be it. “Listen, if you look around our dressing room we class ourselves a Premiership squad.” But to make that a reality they have to maintain the gap between themselves and the rest of the league. Today offers them the chance to stretch that lead over second-placed Dundee United to nine points, which, with 12 games remaining, would be considered a healthy advantage.
“But it’s not just about Dundee United any more,” warned the Hibs striker. “Morton are going really well and Falkirk have started to pick up points again. So we just have to concentrate on ourselves and get the points on board. Morton play Falkirk this weekend so something will give there. But I’m sure there will be many more twists between now and the end of the season.”
But Hibs’ fate lies in their own hands. One defeat in 17 matches in all competitions, they have suffered just two losses in the Championship all season. The last league match, against Ayr United, did end in a stalemate, though, with players and manager again left to rue the poor conversion rate for chances created.
The derby cup tie was partially blamed but, with the replay looming on Wednesday, Graham says there will be no issues with concentration levels this afternoon.
“If you look at it we had enough chances to win the Ayr game,” he added. “It’s easy to say we took our eye off the ball a wee bit but that gaffer has got us in a mindset where we take one game at a time.”