Terry Butcher today eyed testing away matches against Dundee United and Aberdeen and declared “bring it on” as he set his sights on maintaining Hibs’ charge up the Scottish Premiership table.
The derby-day victory over Hearts lifted the Easter Road outfit into the top six, but Butcher insisted he won’t allow his players to rest on their laurels, instead determined they should now meet the new challenge of trying to overhaul fifth-placed United and his old club Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who sit fourth in the table.
Only five points now separate Hibs from Jackie McNamara’s Arabs, with tomorrow’s match at Tannadice presenting the Capital outfit with the opportunity to narrow the gap on a team which has suffered three successive defeats, while Butcher’s players have taken ten points from their four-match Festive programme.
While the trip to Tayside and Friday’s journey to Pittodrie will present Hibs with tough challenges, Butcher insisted his players’ rising confidence will have soared in the wake of their derby triumph, adamant his squad’s focus will be on continuing a run which has seen them beaten just once – by champions Celtic – in eight games.
He said: “I’d wanted four wins over Christmas and New Year, but three out of four isn’t bad. Ten points out of 12 is excellent and now we have two good tests away from home. We look forward to it. Bring it on, we welcome the challenge, the chance of getting more points.
“We are only five behind United and six behind Inverness Caley, so it’s not a bad target to go for. We want to chase teams down, we want to make sure we carry on doing what we are doing and focus on the teams ahead of us.
“We have always looked up. A club of this size and with the passionate crowd – they were unbelievable against Hearts – we have we should be in the top six. That’s where we want to be. We are there now and we want to stay their and build on it.”
Hibs’ terrific run of late will undoubtedly have opposition teams regarding them more warily than they might have only a few weeks ago, the fragility displayed under Pat Fenlon replaced by a grit, determination and, to use Butcher’s favourite buzzword, perseverance. The Hibs boss said: “Other teams might be looking at us a bit differently now – that’s up to them – but the boys are just enjoying it at the moment. We are all enjoying it and we want that enjoyment to continue. There’s nothing like a winning dressing room for camaraderie, for spirit and togetherness. It increases our belief match by match, step by step and who knows what the players can do.
“However, we just want to keep our feet on the ground. We have to forget about the derby result as quickly as we can. I know that’s difficult for the fans, but as players we have to do that because we have a big game tomorrow. I said to the players to enjoy the derby win a little bit because we only have a three day turnaround before we look to try to peg United back a bit.
“I’m not bothered whether they have been winning or losing – it’s always going to be about us as far as I am concerned.”
Butcher expects to have Scott Robertson, scorer of the equaliser as Hibs drew 1-1 with United earlier in the season, available to face his old club again. The midfielder was replaced by Owain Tudur Jones for the final 18 minutes of the derby after feeling his calves tighten as a result, his boss explained, of the amount of running he’d done in the four holiday matches.