Duncan Watmore today insisted Hibs haven’t given up hope of clinching a top-six finish – but admitted it would be a tall order to overhaul St Johnstone.
The Easter Road outfit lie four points behind sixth-placed Saints, the victims of a shock defeat by Ross County as Terry Butcher’s side went down 3-1 to Partick Thistle. But Hibs only have three matches remaining before the split, one less than the Perth club.
However, Hibs head to McDiarmid Park on Saturday and Watmore claimed victory in that match followed by wins over Hearts and Aberdeen could still be enough to propel the Capital club into the top six.
The 20-year-old said: “We’re going for the top six and every game is important now. We can’t slacken off at all. We haven’t given up. It’s a tall order now, but St Johnstone is the team we have to overtake and, if we beat them next weekend, it’s one big step.
“If we win every game now, there’s a great chance we’ll give ourselves a chance of the top six. We still have belief and the next game is massive.”
While the on-loan Sunderland winger’s optimism is to be applauded, the task facing Butcher’s players looks all but impossible for a side which has won just one of its last ten Scottish Premiership matches, the latest setback drawing a blistering reaction from the Hibs boss who threatened to drop his under-performing flops and replace them with youngsters, having hailed Watmore and the teenage Sam Stanton as his best players “by a street” at Firhill.
Again Hibs gave themselves a mountain to climb, a promising start fading as Chris Erskine fired the Jags ahead before Lee Mair took advantage of poor defending to give the Maryhill side a two-goal lead.
Watmore hit back with his first goal in a green-and-white shirt to throw Hibs a lifeline, only for Kallum Higginbotham to wrap it up for Thistle in added-on time.
Alan Archibald’s side, though, did have their goalkeeper, Paul Gallacher, to thank for a stunning reflex save to prevent a Paul Heffernan cross, which had crashed off Partick defender Stephen O’Donnell, pulling Hibs level.
Admitting that in the circumstances his goal counted for little, Watmore said: “I was really happy to score and I honestly thought we were going to kick on.
“We looked like we were the better team in parts and looked like we could go on to score.
“It’s just very frustrating that we didn’t go on, because at 2-1 we had a chance.
We didn’t quite have the attacking threat we wanted, and we’re devastated by the result.
“It’s difficult to take pleasure in my goal when we’ve lost.”
Meanwhile, Hibs’ East of Scotland team clinched promotion to the Central Taxis Premier Division after coming back from two goals down to defeat Ormiston 4-2, with goals from Lewis Allan (2), Gareth McCaffrey and Jamie Beaton taking them back to the top of the First Division.
Hibs have also revealed their allocation of tickets for the derby against Hearts at Tynecastle a week on Sunday has sold out.