Hibs boss Neil Lennon has admitted he had forgotten just how exciting a title chase can be with his team neck-and-neck with Dundee United at the top of the Championship.
At Celtic, Lennon won the Premiership five times and as manager led the Hoops to three more but now the tussle with United has rekindled memories of those days.
He said: “It is exciting. There’s always ups and downs and I had forgotten what it was like for while. It is interesting and it is a challenge. You always look for challenges in your career and this is another one.”
Hibs head United only on goal difference after 17 matches with the pair due to meet for a third time this season at Easter Road on January 6 although the Capital club face Raith Rovers at home tomorrow and Falkirk away on Hogmanay before then.
However, while admitting this could “possibly” be a crucial time for his side, Lennon is seeking the consistency in performance which could help Hibs begin to pull away from their rivals.
He said: “The last couple of games we have not started well but the second-half performances have been very good. What I want to do now is piece the two halves together and get the complete performance that we were doing up until two or three weeks ago.
“I’ve enjoyed the last six months. It is a good club, the players are great and they are willing to learn and want to work and improve. The standard of player I have here is very good and the mentality of the team has also pleased me. It is a very competitive league and it is something a little bit different, We are getting good crowds at home and the fans have been brilliant. We want to try and pull away and open up a gap if we can.”
The loss through injury of influential midfielders John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie has undoubtedly robbed Hibs of the fluency they had been displaying until recently, prompting the arrival of 33-year-old Celtic player Kris Commons on a 28-day emergency loan, Lennon revealing he hopes to have the pair, along with Israeli international goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, back in his plans before that period expires.
“They are doing well and hopefully they will both be back early in the new year. John has had surgery and there is no specific time limit and we will not rush it. Fraser is making steady progress on the groin tear while Ofir had minor surgery. The medical staff are pleased with his progress and hopefully we’ll see him in the new year.”
James Keatings is one whom Lennon has welcomed back from injury, the striker on the bench last weekend and playing in Hibs Under-20s’ 4-1 win over Dundee in midweek while the manager’s options have further widened as Dylan McGeouch has recovered from the ankle knock which sidelined him. Both he and Keatings are in the squad for tomorrow.
Lennon said: “It will be nice if I could have all the players back at one time. We have missed John and Fraser as they have dovetailed nicely together. But Andrew Shinnie has played very well in any position we have asked him to play.”
Although he is counting down the days until his squad will again be at full strength, Lennon is still “looking for that one who might make the extra special difference” in the January transfer window, revealing he’s continuing to assess possible new arrivals as they arrive on trial with American winger Aaron Kovar and Polish goalkeeper Maciej Dabrowski among them.