CRAIG PATERSON reckons Hibs could build the foundations for a successful season by getting back to winning ways at home.
Pat Fenlon’s men have won just once in the league at Easter Road in the whole of 2013 – a 1-0 victory over Dundee in May – failing ten times to get three points.
Following recent away successes at Kilmarnock and St Johnstone, the Hibees are desperate to secure three points on their home patch when St Mirren arrive in Edinburgh this weekend.
Former Hibs player Paterson insists getting positive results at home is essential as Fenlon looks to take his team up the Premiership.
“It is absolutely vital that Hibs string together a few good results at home,” said Paterson, now a radio and television pundit .
“Over the last few seasons, their home form has been a major problem – there have been few victories. I think it has been because of that poor home form that Hibs have been looking at the bottom six and even the threat of relegation.
“Normally, if a team is going to have a good season, it will be built around a base of good home form and results.
“There’s no better feeling than picking up points in front of your home fans and it can be the foundation for a successful campaign. Home form is absolutely vital if Hibs are going to do anything in the league. Hibs have always been a team who have wanted to play attacking football and attractive football and you could always be sure of seeing plenty of goals. Lately though, there have been slim pickings and that is something that has got to change.”
Hibs were forced to come from behind in both their victories so far this season and Paterson has advised them to come flying out if the blocks against Saints on Saturday.
He said: “You have got to bring the crowd into a game and get them right behind you, but, if you start slowly, it is more difficult to do that.
“If other teams blunt you in the opening stages, any kind of atmosphere can die.
“Even if it’s just winning the first few challenges or the first few 50/50s, the crowd want to get behind you, they’re coming along, paying their money and want to see something good.
“If Hibs can open at a really good tempo in the first 15 or 20 minutes then I would expect the crowd to come alive.”
Paterson firmly believes the current crop of players at Easter Road are an improvement on previous squads and says that, on paper at least, they should be up at the top end of the table come the end of the season.
“When you look at the players who have come in,” Paterson continued, “I think this season should be much better than those just gone past.
“Liam Craig and Paul Heffernan are both good players who are capable of getting a few goals, Michael Nelson always looks solid and Scott Robertson is really finding his feet. When you look man-for-man, there has been a major improvement in the squad and, in the last few games they have really started to look like a team.”
Hibs striker James Collins has spoken of his desire to add to his first goal for the club, which he bagged in the win over St Johnstone last Saturday.
There are high hopes that the powerful striker will go some way to filling the gap left by 28-goal Leigh Griffiths and Paterson acknowledged the difficulty Fenlon faced in finding a replacement for Sparky, who returned to Wolves at the end of last season’s loan spell in Edinburgh.
Griffiths grabbed seven of the eight goals scored by Hibs against St Mirren in their four league meetings last season and Paterson is keen to see if Collins can produce goals this weekend.
He continued: “I think strikers live or die by the number of times that your name appears on the scoresheet.
“He is certainly a willing worker and he gives his whack every single week and he chases lost causes, runs into corners, but when you’re playing up front you want to be scoring goals as regularly as possible. Getting your first goal is always really important because it gets that monkey off your back.
“Hopefully that now means that he can relax into his role a bit and if chances come along, he can find the back of the net. It’s important that he does step up to the plate because Leigh Griffiths has been such a hard act to follow.”
Paterson believes Hibs could finally be finding their rhythm in the league following a sticky start to their domestic campaign – and that nightmare defeat to Malmo in Europe. He insists, though, that if Hibs do have realistic ambitions of ending the season in the top half of the table, games like Saturday’s against Saints are ones they need to be winning.
He added: “When you lose so heavily in Europe, lose to a very young Hearts team and then have a poor start to the domestic campaign after that, then the players and the manager are going to be under pressure to come out fighting.
“Thankfully, since then, they have managed to pick themselves up and get a few decent results in the bag.
“They’ve gone four matches unbeaten and, while I am sure that no-one down Easter Road way is going to be celebrating that fact too much, it is a definite sign that they are beginning to go in the right direction now. It’s important that they use that momentum now because they are coming up against a side that are near the bottom of the league and struggling right now.
“If you’ve got aspirations of finishing in the top six then these are the kind of games that you have got to be winning.
“Home games against teams who are struggling to find their rhythm are must-wins, for me.
“Hibs have got to be a top-six team, that is surely the minimum that their fans will be looking for.
“They have got to target a victory.
“St Mirren will fight hard, there’s no doubt about that, because they are under pressure now but Hibs need to get the crowd behind them and look to take all three points.”