Terry Butcher today urged his players to ignore the New Year derby with Capital rivals Hearts and to concentrate on ending the year with a bang by beating Kilmarnock tomorrow.
The visit of Killie offers Hibs one final chance to slightly improve an appalling home record. The Hibees have won just one league match at Easter Road this season and only two in the whole of 2013 and Butcher is eager to see his side continue their unbeaten festive run by recording a rare home success.
Four points taken against Partick Thistle and Ross County have, according to the Hibs boss, seen confidence within his squad rise “by a notch”, particularly after they enjoyed the experience of scoring two goals in a match for the first time in 13 games as they won in Dingwall.
While he accepts that for many fans the derby overshadows any other match at this time of year, Butcher insisted tomorrow’s clash was the more important.
He said: “The Hearts one is a big game, but for me the bigger one is Kilmarnock. It’s the more important one as it’s the next game. It’s one we want to win to keep the momentum going. We’ve not won at home for a while and we want to do that, to finish 2013 with a bang.”
To do so, Hibs will have to contend with Rugby Park hitman Kris Boyd, who extended his record as the leading scorer of all-time in the Scottish Premiership with a double in Killie’s 4-0 hammering of Hearts on Boxing Day to take his tally for the season to 11. However, Butcher insisted his players are well equipped to deal with that particular threat, having notched up four clean sheets in their last six games.
He said: “Boyd is on fire, he’s a threat, but he needs to get the ball. It’s up to us to stop him getting it and if he does get it then we have to deny him the opportunity to score. There’s been other strikers, such as Stevie May at St Johnstone, we’ve stopped recently, so we have to make sure we do our job and do it well.
“We’ve become a difficult team to break down. We’ve only lost two goals in six games and while Ross County hit the frame of the goal twice – from distance – Ben Williams did not really have a save to make. We’ve got some good, experienced defenders and I always feel when crosses are coming into our box they will deal with them. They’re big and strong and will get their heads on the ball.”
Although Hibs’ two goals at the Global Energy Stadium came from defenders Michael Nelson and Jordon Forster, Butcher believes more will come – as he predicted – if delivery into the opposition’s danger area is of a decent quality, his point made by the two corners Paul Cairney provided.
He said: “We look a threat from corners and free-kicks. We work on them, we change them around, but it’s all about the delivery. Put the ball into the right area then we have people who are brave and want to attack the ball.
“It was nice to win again. Confidence is up a notch, we want to continue to see that rising and to be picking up more points. We’ve two home games coming up, two great games to look forward to and we want six points from them.”