Neil Lennon has urged Hibs to win their next two games and put themselves in “a very healthy position”.
The Ladbrokes Championship leaders face Queen of the South at home today before travelling to Tannadice on Friday week to take on their closest title rivals Dundee United, who currently sit just one point behind them in the table.
The Capital club were installed as red-hot favourites to win the league this season, some predicting they’d have it wrapped up by Christmas. However, Lennon believes it could be “nip and tuck” until the end of the campaign, expressing no surprise that newly-relegated United are breathing down his team’s neck.
The Hibs boss, naturally, would have liked to have seen his side – having started the season with five straight wins – enjoy a greater advantage by this point but, he insisted, he’s been delighted with recent performances even if his players had to settle for a draw against ten-man Falkirk last weekend.
He said: “I always felt Dundee United would be there or thereabouts. We are maybe not running away with the league as we would like, but it’s not given to you, you have to go and earn it. We have lost one game, albeit we were down to ten men, so I have been very, very pleased with the consistency so far.
“I would like us to be far more comfortable in terms of the ratio of chances created to chances taken. But we are still creating chances, the intent and purpose is still there. I have not seen that diminish at all over the past month when we have been giving a really good level of performance. We are still going strong at the moment, we look very fit and hungry and I think it will take a very good team in this division to stop us.”
Having said that, Lennon acknowledged the next two games ahead of the festive programme are of vital importance even if Queens, after a good start to the season, have fallen away in recent weeks while United have overcome a stuttering introduction to the Championship to have won six of their past seven league games.
He said: “We have two difficult games ahead and it is important we win both and that will put us in a very healthy position. I like what I am seeing at the minute from the team. I like the enthusiasm, the attitude and the will to win. They have been very good at times.
“It will be a busy period, but I won’t be banging the drum. We need to take it one game at a time. We have lost one game and, okay, we’ve maybe had too many draws from games when we merited more but we need to keep going.
“Some performances have been superb. Since Raith Rovers the turnaround in quality of performance has been superb – we would have beaten most teams in the country.”