Ayr United boss Ian McCall today warned Hibs his side will be going all out for a repeat of their shock win at Easter Road when the Capital side travel to Somerset Park on Saturday.
The Ayrshire outfit are the only team to have beaten Neil Lennon’s players in a Championship match so far this season, coming from behind to end a run of five straight victories and dash hopes Hibs had of claiming an all-time club record by winning their first six league games.
While accepting Hibs could have been “two or three up” before midfielder Marvin Bartley was sent off at a time when they were leading 1-0 – a decision which McCall described as 50/50 although the red card was later rescinded – he insisted his players weren’t given the credit he felt they deserved on the day.
“It does sound pretty ridiculous, not the fact Hibs have lost only one game, but that it was us who beat them,” said McCall of his part-time Championship newcomers. “Even after the sending-off we still had to score the two goals to win and we actually had another good chance to add a third.
“It was a great day for us but what I remember was the size of the crowd [15,056]. I’d been to Easter Road as a player and manager previously with bigger clubs but never had a crowd like that. It was fabulous. I don’t know if my players fed off it, but they enjoyed the pitch and the stadium.”
McCall, a good friend of Lennon’s, revealed he didn’t stop to have a beer after the game but admitted he’s looking forward to welcoming the Capital club to Ayr’s own antiquated stadium. He said: “I hope the powers-that-be at Hibs are true to their word and that they’ll bring 2000 fans down.
“We’ll hope to have at least that number of our own and it doesn’t take a lot of people to create a great atmosphere.
“We’ll be trying to win the game. We worked our socks off to get into this league so we have to relish it and enjoy it.”
McCall believes the signings of former Hearts defender Conrad Balatoni – scorer of his side’s first goal at Easter Road – and ex-Dundee veteran Gary Harkins have been instrumental in helping Ayr get over a rocky start to the season but added: “I feel we have two, three or four players that could pay for Hibs. Maybe not right now, but in the future, they are good enough to play at that level.”
While that victory in Edinburgh precipitated a wobble which has been ended by victories over Dunfermline and St Mirren, McCall believes that day gave his players a measure of belief.
He said: “We started the season with three defeats, poor defeats. We were very faithful, loyal to a lot of the players who had got us into the Championship. They were finding their feet and finding a way to stay in games which are a lot, lot harder. There’s no let-up in terms of the teams you play.”
McCall believes Hibs and Dundee United will probably begin to stretch away from the others but insisted it will be easier said than done as he underlined the competitive edge which is all too evident in the Championship.
He said: “I’ve watched a couple of Hibs games, and the match against Dundee United, for example, it just seemed they got to the stage where they were struggling to get that second goal to kill it off.
“Our agenda is, of course, different to that of Hibs but our win at Easter Road gave us the platform to get some good results and it’s a case of trying to keep getting points on the board.”