Neil Lennon has admitted it will be well nigh impossible for Hibs to replicate their Scottish Cup heroics in this evening’s Championship clash with Dunfermline – but he wants them to try to get as near as possible.
And, while his players still bask in the plaudits they received following their stunning 3-1 derby win over Hearts – one which earned them a quarter-final tie at home to Ayr United – Lennon insisted it’s now back to the “bread and butter” business of trying to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Drawing from his own experiences as a player, Lennon knows full well the problems faced in going from such a high to the more mundane task of a league game. He said: “The reality is we have won a cup tie, albeit against our big rivals and in very convincing fashion which we are all delighted about.
“Now it is back to trying to win the league. For me, it is almost impossible to replicate Wednesday night. One, you’re not playing Hearts. Two, it’s not a full house under the lights. Three, it’s not a cup tie.
“So am I expecting them to pay the same way? It’s going to be very, very difficult to do so. There is going to be a drop and I know from my own experience from a Champions League game on a Wednesday to a Scottish game on a Saturday, mentally and physically there is a drop.
“What I would like is for the players to get as close to what they showed against Hearts but I can’t guarantee you they’ll be exactly the same.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was among the near sell-out crowd of 20,205 on Wednesday, the biggest since the redevelopment of Easter Road was completed. He later admitted to having been impressed by Hibs midfielder John McGinn, describing the Scotland internationalist as “the type of player you love as a manager”, his words raising an immediate fear among the Easter Road support that he might be tempted to make a move for the former St Mirren star.
However, while admitting that the natural course of football is for players to have their ambitions, Lennon stated his intention to hold on to the likes of McGinn and top scorer Jason Cummings as long as possible.
He said: “Brendan was probably just asked a question about John and he answered it – and I agree with him. He’s a top-class player. I thought he was superb the other night. Both he and Jason played better than I thought they would. We want to keep them here as long as we can. We’ve already had bids for Jason. Players all have their ambitions, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there was interest in a number of the players at the end of the season. Hopefully by that time we’ll be in the Premiership and that will be an incentive for them to stay a little longer.”