Pat FENLON today urged his players to ensure they have the chance for revenge against Hearts next season by winning their battle for SPL survival.
The Easter Road boss was bitterly disappointed to witness an insipid first-half performance from his side in the latest encounter with their arch-rivals, admitting his players had let down both themselves and their supporters.
Goals from Craig Beattie and Suso Santana earned the Tynecastle club victory to stretch their unbeaten run over Hibs to ten matches as Fenlon’s side passed up the opportunity to extend their advantage over basement club Dunfermline.
The gap between the two remains four points with just eight matches remaining and Hibs due to face Euro-chasing Dundee United and Motherwell before the split. And that, rather than dwelling on events in Gorgie, he insisted, must be their focus.
Fenlon said: “It was bitterly disappointing, to be honest. We never showed up in the first half, we let ourselves down and the supporters down.
“We are fighting for our lives, we have not won a derby for a long time but Hearts had more desire about them than we had in the first half and that should not happen.
“We needed to get in their faces and we did not. We didn’t get started, we never got about them, we stood off and let them play.”
Hibs did improve after the interval, but trailing to Beattie’s opener they were hit by a sucker punch in the dying seconds as Santana claimed a second for Hearts who now haven’t lost a derby in almost three years.
While happier with the second-half performance, Fenlon said: “It shouldn’t take us to get in at half time to get that reaction. We’d spoken about it before the match, an early kick-off and to make sure we turned up ready to play and we didn’t.”
It was a second derby defeat for the Irishman and although he’d dearly love to enjoy victory on such an occasion, he insisted that was the long term aim with retaining Hibs place in the top flight of Scottish football at the moment the overriding priority.
He said: “It’s about survival of the club and making sure we stay up and then see if we can rectify that by being in the League to play against them.
“We cannot get too hung up on the result. It was disappointing, but we have some massive games coming up and we have to focus on trying to win them.”