James Keatings has admitted Hibs manager Neil Lennon has been given every excuse to wield the axe ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup derby with Hearts.
Lennon had warned his players that if they didn’t perform against Ayr United there was a danger they’d miss out on the trip to Tynecastle. He watched on as Hibs produced a dire opening 45 minutes which led to them having to settle for a 1-1 draw which saw their lead over Dundee United at the top of the Championship table trimmed to six points. The Easter Road boss made his unhappiness clear during the interval and, although there was a marked improvement in the second half, he admittted their performance had given him food for thought as he ponders his team to face the resurgent Jambos.
And Keatings agreed he and his team-mates had little room for complaint. Describing the first 45 minutes against Ayr as “probably the worst performance I have ever played in”, the striker admitted Lennon had given his players both barrels at half-time saying: “He had all the ammo, the gun loaded watching that first half. He had every right to have a few words and that’s exactly what he did. You saw the reaction. We were better although it couldn’t have got any worse, to be honest. You cannot go into games, give 45 minutes away and not expect to be punished. We were punished and he was frustrated like anyone else.”
However, adamant minds hadn’t wandered from the task in hand to this weekend, Keatings insisted whoever Lennon picks in Gorgie will be determined to make amends by coming up with a repeat of last season’s cup triumph over Hearts which ultimately led to Hibs ending their 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo. He said: “It’s obviously a massive opportunity for whoever starts to get a massive win for the club. Hearts are the home team, they have come up with good results while we have come off a disappointing one. But this is a derby. It means everything to the fans, to the club and the players.
“They’ll be confident but we know we have a good team, a good squad and hopefully we can go there and do what we did before.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Andrew Shinnie will miss Hibs’ next Championship match – away to Raith Rovers a week on Saturday – after picking up his sixth booking of the season against Ayr and with it an automatic one-match ban.