Niklas Gunnarsson believes Hibs can put a doubt in the minds of Falkirk’s players in the chase for second place in the Championship with an emphatic win over Dumbarton tonight.
Three points from the visit of the Sons would haul the Easter Road side level with the Bairns although they go into the match knowing their goal difference is far inferior to that of Peter Houston’s side.
In that regard Falkirk are seven goals better off with Hibs the lowest scorers of the top three in the table with just 53 from their 34 games so far.
But despite that statistic Gunnarsson is adamant the Capital outfit possess the strike-force to eat into that advantage before the final fixtures on Sunday, Hibs at home to Queen of the South while Falkirk host Morton.
Admitting a five or six goal victory would be “awesome”, the Norwegian defender also conceded it would be very difficult to score so many, insisting ensuring a win was the over-riding concern.
He said: “If we can come much closer to them in the goal difference stakes, then they will feel the pressure. Winning 5-0 is very difficult and it doesn’t happen that often although I once won by that margin in the Tippeligaen against Aalesund who played in the Europa League recently.
“First and foremost, we just have to win the game. If we can score a few more than usual that would be awesome.”
Hibs do, of course, have Jason Cummings to thank for 24 of their goals, last season’s top scorer in the Championship already ahead of his previous tally and desperate to add even more to his total.
And with the likes of Anthony Stokes and others, Gunnarsson insists it has to be a case of Hibs turning the number of chances they tend to create in games into goals.
The 24-year-old said: “We have goalscorers in our team so we know it just comes down to scoring our chances.
“We know we can create ten to 15 chances a game. Against Rangers we were very effective because we scored most of the chances we had. But when we were away to Dumbarton we created 18 chances and only scored two.
“That wasn’t the best ratio, but if we click then we have the ability to score five goals.”
Gunnarsson netted the third in the 3-2 win against Rangers which swung the race for second place back in favour of Hibs only for a disappointing draw away to Morton at the weekend to put it back into the hands of Falkirk even although they, too, had to settle for a point against Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park.
It took yet another late goal from Bob McHugh for them to do so, Gunnarsson revealing he and his team-mates were avid listeners as the match unfolded in Kirkcaldy as their team coach headed home from Cappielow.
In fact, so late did McHugh’s goal come Gunnarsson had already been dropped off back in Edinburgh believing Raith had won the game only to be bitterly disappointed as he learned of the final outcome.
“It was disappointing to go from the Rangers win to the draw against Morton because that was a must-win game and we didn’t manage that.
“It wasn’t good enough but Falkirk’s game was on the radio on the team bus and when we arrived back at the Marriott Raith Rovers were leading with five minutes left.
“When I got home I noticed it was 2-2 and I wasn’t a happy guy. We thought Raith Rovers would help.”
While recognising Hibs themselves face two testing matches, Gunnarsson also believes Falkirk won’t have it all their own way against Morton but admitted he and his team-mates must concentrate on winning their games and hope the Bairns drop points – otherwise they’d have to rely on scoring a barrowload against Dumbarton and Queens.
He said: “We have to do our part and win our two games and then see how Falkirk get on. If Falkirk drop points it would be awesome but we need to do our job.
“We’ve had several chances to secure second spot but we haven’t been good enough. We have to think about ourselves and see what happens.”
If Hibs do win tonight it will ensure Sunday’s matches will be nerve-shredding affairs for both their fans and those of the Bairns although he doesn’t expect to be kept informed of events at Falkirk in quite the way players are kept up-to-date in Sweden where he was on loan with Elfsborg last season.
He said: “We were fighting to win the league but we didn’t manage that in the end. We ended up competing against Malmo in the last game for a Europa League spot. We had to win it and we won 4-2 against Falkenberg while they lost 2-0 at home to Norkopping.
“It got interesting because, week to week, you’re listening out for the scores.
“Then in the final games they read out the goal updates on the loudspeaker at the ground so we knew what was happening.
“I think that’s something more common in Scandinavia than Scotland. When you’re playing it can be hard to listen out to what is being said but the fans react.
“I don’t know if we’ll find anything out on Sunday – that’s up to the gaffer what he wants us to know or not know.”
Although Hibs already had their play-off place secured, Gunnarsson admitted taking second and so ensuring not only two fewer games to play but a break of ten days would be of great benefit to the squad who have had a heavy workload thanks to going all the way to the finals of the League and Scottish Cups.
He said: “I’ve never been involved in anything like this with so many games. We’ve already had nearly 50 matches this season and that’s incredible.
“In Scandinavia we have 30 games, so there’s a big difference there.
“Our main goal is to get promoted and not be involved in every play-off game so we can have some proper training sessions rather than just recovering and playing games.
“We haven’t had a proper session in about a month because we have had nine games in 28 days. We do physical work in the gym to keep our fitness levels up, but when it comes to the football it’s more about set pieces rather than a proper session.
“We’re good with recovery, it’s professional. Everyone has ice baths and things like that.
“But after nine games of course we’re tired, if we weren’t tired we’d be cheating.
“Some are more tired than others. John McGinn has played about 50 games and needed a rest against Morton. It’s hard for the body.”