BEN WILLIAMS insisted today that Hibs must treat their next three matches as cup finals if they are to make a success of their season.
The Easter Road side face three crucial games – at home to Inverness today, away to Celtic, and then the Scottish Cup semi-final with Falkirk – over the coming weeks.
And Williams knows that the outcome of that trio of games will define Hibs’ season.
They must win their next two league matches to ensure a place in the top six and are desperate to put one over the Bairns to give them a chance of finally bringing their Scottish Cup hoodoo to an end.
“The next three games are going to define our season,” Williams conceded.
“They are the pressure games that every player wants to be involved in.
“But you want to come out of them with positive results.
“These games will shape whether we get into Europe and whether we get to a cup final.
“It’s starts with this game against Inverness and it is a huge one for us.”
Williams would love to end the season in the top half of the table, particularly as, at one point, they sat proudly in second place in the SPL.
And he admits that, having strung together so many good results in the earlier part of the campaign, it would be a huge disappointment to find themselves in the bottom six next month.
“I don’t think we’d regard it as a failure, particularly for the ones who were here last season given how that ended up,” he assessed.
“But I do think there would be a huge level of disappointment between everyone.
“We all strove to get into a top six position, it’s what everyone wanted and we have pretty much been there all season.
“So to fall away at the end of the season would be hugely disappointing.
“People could argue we might be sitting here in a totally different position had some decisions gone our way.
“But you have to be retrospective about these sort of things. They will even out over the course of the season.
“People said we picked up points earlier in the season that we maybe shouldn’t have had.
“So you can’t be too downhearted and blame decisions.
“It’s in our own hands so it’s up to us and that’s all we can ask.
“We have two incredibly difficult games but if we win both and put six points on the board we’ve done all we can do.
“And then if the teams around us get better results and a better points total then fair enough, they’re entitled to do that.
“It starts on Saturday and we have to view this as our first cup final.”
The shot stopper, who arrived at Easter Road last summer following his move from Colchester United on a free transfer, was named the Hibs Supporters’ Association player of the year at a dinner on Sunday night, despite the fact that ojn-fire striker Leigh Griffiths has been the one grabbing the headlines this season with his goals.
Having seen their side struggle in the goalkeeping department in times gone by, the Hibs supporters clearly place huge value on having a safe pair of hands between the sticks.
Williams was delighted to be singled out for the accolade and said: “From what I have been told round here it’s a bit rare for a keeper to win it.
“It’s a lovely accolade to get and obviously something I am quite proud of.
“It’s something that comes from supporters who recognise week in, week out what you are putting into the group.
“So it’s a nice touch.
“It probably means more for a goalkeeper to get it because you see strikers banging in goals left, right and centre who probably deserve to win those type of awards, so it’s nice.”
This is the third season out of the last five that Williams has claimed a player of the year title for himself, having also been given the same honour at Colchester and Carlisle.
“I think that’s three Player of the Year trophies in five years now,” he added.
“It shows I am getting to that level of consistency I have been striving to achieve.
“It means I am actively helping and contributing to the team other than the strikers who are putting the ball in the net.”
Considering this has been his first season of action the Scottish Premier League, Williams has been in impressive form over the course of the 2012/13 campaign but it has been his ability to deny opponents from the spot that has earned him most plaudits.
The keeper has proven almost impossible to beat from 12 yards this season and added: “I think the penalties have helped me. They’re obviously memorable moments for fans,” he said.
“And the expectation level for a goalkeeper saving a penalty is very low.
“So to save the ratio I have done is great and it’s testament to all the work that goes on behind the scenes.”