Pat FENLON will cast a final eye over Ayr United as they play Livingston tomorrow night as he puts the finishing touches to his dossier on Hibs’ William Hill Scottish Cup opponents.
The Easter Road boss watched Brian Reid’s side beat Falkirk to reach Saturday’s quarter-finals and admitted the Capital outfit face a “tricky” tie at Somerset Park against a side which knocked Hibs out of the competition last season.
And he is well aware of Ayr’s giant-killing reputation, the First Division club having beaten SPL opponents in Inverness Caley, St Mirren and Hearts to reach the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
But while wary, Fenlon insisted he has the players who can side-step an upset, pointing to the renewed confidence within his squad as results have picked up and the gap between Hibs and SPL basement side Dunfermline has widened to four points.
Pointing out that Ayr had beaten Falkirk again at the weekend, Fenlon said: “They are playing well at the moment and are on a bit of a roll. It will be a tricky Cup tie for us but we have to go with the right attitude.
“If we do that, then we have the players to get us through.”
Although disappointed only to draw with St Mirren following a morale-boosting win away to Kilmarnock, Fenlon is happy with his team’s performance, insisting with some justification that Saints’ goalkeeper Craig Samson had denied Hibs what would have been a well-deserved three points with a string of outstanding saves.
It was, though, another home match without a win, Hibs having managed just one league victory at Easter Road in an entire year. Even so, claimed Fenlon, the signs of improvement are evident.
He said: “Our home record has not been good enough over the course of the season. Dunfermline’s is similar and that’s why both of us are down there. It’s something we have to improve both in the short and long term.
“But we put in a decent performance against St Mirren, I was happy with a lot of our football. We created a lot of chances but their goalkeeper had a very good game.”
Conceding his record as Hibs boss hasn’t been “brilliant” thus far, Fenlon went on: “I think we are steadily improving and that’s what you have to look at at the moment. Over the course of the few months we have been in the team has improved, the play has improved and there’s a bit of confidence coming back.
“The players deserve a lot of credit, they’ve been playing under great pressure but they’ve done a fair bit of work on the training ground and in games and are getting their rewards.”
Meanwhile, the SFA have revealed Easter Road is to host its first full international match in more than seven years when Scotland take on Australia on Wednesday, August 15, in what will be a final warm-up match for Craig Levein’s squad ahead of their World Cup campaign.
The news comes hard on the heels of the revelation that Scotland’s Under-21 side will face Italy at the same ground on April 25.
Hibs kid Ross Caldwell marked his new two-year deal by scoring in the Under-19s 2-1 win over Dunfermline with Danny Handling getting the other.