The 12-point gap which separates Capital rivals Hibs and Hearts can’t simply be dismissed as immaterial – but today Easter Road star Callum Booth insisted it was no cause for panic.
Booth and his team-mates lost further ground on their city neighbours as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers with, ironically, the two points lost down to a second-half equaliser by former Jambos striker Christian Nade.
Meanwhile, the Gorgie outfit maintained their super-charged start to the season with a 3-0 win away to Queen of the South, where Alan Stubbs’ side had lost only a couple of weeks ago, to retain their place at the top of the Championship table.
However, Booth firmly believes the Easter Road side will come on strong in the weeks and months ahead. Accepting Stubbs’ side can’t afford to let the gap widen much further if Hibs’ own title aspirations aren’t to evaporate – although some may say that is already the case – he said: “We haven’t had the best start to the season but we’re only eight games in.
“There’s a lot of new players at the club, a new manager and backroom staff and it does take time. There’s a long, long way to go so we have to take it week by week, keep working hard and look to pick up as many points as possible. We’ve still to play Hearts three more times and those games can have a big impact on how things stand.
“We just need to stick together, to keep believing and I’m sure we will get there.”
Booth pointed to the away wins over Premiership club Ross County and Rangers as proof of the capabilities of Stubbs’ squad, although their inconsistency was again highlighted as they surrendered the first-half lead Scott Robertson had given them against Raith.
Prior to kick-off, Stubbs had stressed the need for his players to secure a victory, admittng afterwards that anything less than three points was always going to be a disappointment in the wake of that win at Ibrox, a sentiment which was shared by Booth.
The 23-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Stark’s Park, said: “It’s disappointing to have to settle for a point when you are 1-0 up at home. I felt we were the better side in the first half, we created a few chances and scored at a good time, just before half-time, but for some reason we just could not get going after the interval.
“After getting two really good results away from home we were looking to come back to Easter Road and win again so, in that sense, it was very much two points dropped.
“Raith played well in the second half, but although they had a lot of possession they didn’t really create many clear-cut chances and Mark Oxley didn’t have much to trouble him.
“We found ourselves penned in a bit and couldn’t get out.”
So the inevitable happened. Nade’s backheel instigated a bit of pinball in Hibs’ penalty area before the ball fell for the striker to slot it low beyond Oxley and into the bottom corner of the net. It was described as a “slice of luck” by Stubbs but one which few would have begrudged Raith, who ensured Hibs wouldn’t leapfrog them and into third place.
But amid the disappointment Booth was happy to be back in action, making his first start since the League Cup win over Dumbarton in August. After he had replaced hamstring injury victim David Gray at Ibrox, Stubbs started against Raith with the side which had finished against Rangers.
Admitting he found it a “bit strange” to be facing a side for which he’d actually made more appearances last season than he has so far with Hibs, Booth, who won the Ramsdens Cup with Grant Murray’s side, said: “I had a great time with Raith and I’m still really good mates with six or seven of them,
“Coming up directly against Jason Thomson, who is one of my best pals, was a bit strange. We didn’t speak to each other, we just focused on the game. We had a good battle, he was trying to get forward in the second half and I was trying to stop him.
“I was just happy to be playing again. I’ve not played too many, I’ve only had three and a half games so far, but I’ve enjoyed them and now it’s up to me to keep working hard in training and hopefully be ready when the chances come, as I’m delighted to be back at Easter Road after two years away and want to play many more times.”