Hibs may again be overwhelming favourites going into tomorrow night’s League Cup clash with Hearts, but Easter Road star Scott Robertson insisted he and his team-mates will be totally ignoring the bookies’ odds given the outcome of the first derby of the season at Tynecastle.
Only two games into the campaign. Pat Fenlon’s side crossed the Capital, with even a few Jambos’ supporters predicting an easy win given the financial woes which had seen the Gorgie outfit docked 15 points and forced to play a team packed with inexperienced youngsters.
And yet those kids shocked their near neighbours, Callum Paterson’s late header sending the maroon hordes into ecstasy, the goal prompting a run of seven points from three games which gave Hearts players and fans alike hope that they could, despite everything, mount their own version of the great escape and elude the clutches of relegation.
Since a notable 2-1 win over Aberdeen, though, now installed in second place in the Scottish Premiership, Gary Locke’s youngsters have taken just one point from their last seven games and now find themselves back exactly where they started, 15 points adrift but with the 11 matches of the first round of fixtures now played.
For the more parochial of Edinburgh’s football fans, the gap between Hibs and Hearts stands at a mammoth 22 points. It is little wonder then that this time round the bookies have Fenlon’s side either odds-on or evens to triumph, while their visitors are priced at 3/1.
Hibs midfielder Robertson, though, is naturally wary, recognising that while Hearts’ only triumphs in recent weeks have come courtesy of penalty shoot-outs which took care of First Division adversaries Raith Rovers and Queen of the South which, along with the Easter Road side’s 5-3 win over Stranraer, have set up tomorrow night’s quarter-final.
While the match, being televised live and so starting at the unusually early time of 7pm to accommodate the cameras, will undoubtedly provide cash-strapped Hearts with a much-needed financial windfall, Robertson warned the release the cup tie may provide his opponents from their demoralising league run could be an important factor in deciding the outcome.
The former Dundee, Dundee United and Blackpool star, though, was equally keen to point out that the Hibs of today, despite the disappointment of losing to Aberdeen at the weekend while Kilmarnock were inflicting yet another defeat on Hearts, are a different proposition to the side which travelled to Gorgie in mid-August.
Fenlon and his players were subjected to a lot of flak in the wake of that defeat with the manager’s position itself coming into question but today Robertson said: “That one was on the back of a bad run of results but before Saturday’s game we had lost only one in nine, so we feel like we are in a good way at the moment.
“Because of the situation in the League, people will be expecting us to win just like the first derby. But it showed you cannot take anything for granted. There have been games we have ben expected to do better than we have, like that first derby.”
If Locke’s players have found themselves up against it, Robertson points to the derby triumph and that victory over Aberdeen as examples of their abilities. He said: “They’ve caused teams problems. Their last two results against Kilmarnock and St Mirren have got people talking about it being over already.
“We know that is not the case and perhaps knowing they are not on league duty means they can look forward to the derby aware this one doesn’t have any implications as regards points.”
With Celtic out of the competition, the victims of a shock defeat by Morton, Robertson believes those in the last eight all believe they have an opportunity to get their hands on silverware including the Cappielow outfit even although they are now rooted to the bottom of the First Division.
He said: “I wouldn’t rule them out, after beating Celtic they’ll be full of confidence and feeling they can do it again. But yes, I think everyone will feel they have a good chance of winning the cup, but as far as we are concerned tomorrow night is as far as we are looking.”
To that end, Robertson insisted Fenlon’s players will up to produce a much better performance against Hearts then they did in the visit of Aberdeen, the manager having afterwards lambasted them for failing to come up with the same tenacity and commitment as shown seven days earlier as they drew with Celtic.
He said: “It was massively disappointing, but incredibly frustrating at the same time to have played as we did against Celtic when we almost got a victory and then not match Aberdeen. Aberdeen did have a lot of possession, but, speaking for myself, I honestly didn’t feel we were under a lot of pressure, that it was chance after chance and that a goal was coming.”
Super subs Scott Vernon and Gregg Wylde, though, snatched all three points for the Dons with late goals, although Hibs felt Lewis Stevenson was fouled in the build-up to the opener, a view shared by the full back, who nevertheless admitted he should simply have booted the ball into the stand rather than try to play his way out.
Tomorrow night, however, provides Fenlon’s players with the opportunity to make amends. Robertson said: “There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves, the games are coming thick and fast with Celtic, Aberdeen, Hearts and then Motherwell on Sunday.
“The entire focus of the boys is now on tomorrow night, we’ll be up for it and hopefully we can enjoy a better performance and result than at the weekend.”