A POTENTIAL Sunday lunchtime shootout with Falkirk holds no fears for James Keatings after the Hibs striker was part of a Hamilton team that almost wiped out a goal-difference deficit of eight on the final day of the Championship season two years ago.
The Bairns and the Hibees are locked together on points in the battle for second place, but Peter Houston’s side are three goals better off. In the final fixtures of the regulation season, Falkirk host Morton while Hibs welcome Queen of the South.
In order to finish second – and ensure they jump straight to the Premiership play-off semi-final – the Easter Road side must collect more points than Falkirk on Sunday or enjoy a margin of victory which is at least three goals more than the Bairns. For instance, a 4-0 win would be enough for Hibs to finish second by virtue of the head-to-head record between the teams if Falkirk were only to win 1-0.
Alan Stubbs’ team have won by four clear goals only once this season – against Dumbarton on Tuesday – but Keatings knows from experience that chasing a goal glut can act as a driving force. The striker was on the bench as his former club Hamilton entered the final game of the season against Morton requiring a Dundee slip-up against Dumbarton and an unlikely eight-goal swing if they were to pip the Dens Park side to the title. In the end, they won 10-2 and would have achieved their objective if Dundee didn’t cling on for a 2-1 victory. He is hopeful that Hibs can put pressure on Falkirk with another goal surge this weekend.
“When I was at Hamilton we got told before the game we needed eight goals and needed Dundee to draw,” he recalls. “It was a bit of a freak, finishing 10-2. It was wave after wave of attack after half-time and I believed we could do it.
“I had a funny feeling before the game and it was weird to see a game like that. We stood on the pitch at full-time and Dundee still had two minutes to play and one of our coaches told us the Dundee keeper made a great save at the end. We went into the play-offs after that and still got promotion.
“Anything can happen going into the end of the season. We want second spot and it’s up to us to try and grab as many goals as we can.
“It’s in Falkirk’s hands obviously but we closed the gap on the goal difference a bit on Tuesday night so we’ll go again and hopefully get more goals and see what happens.”
Keatings will be hoping to retain his starting place after a man-of-the-match performance against Dumbarton in which he had a hand in all four goals – scoring the first two, being dubiously awarded the third, and crossing for the fourth. They marked his first league goals since November and the 24-year-old admitted: “It’s about time I got back on the scoresheet. My target was to beat last season’s tally [11 with Hearts] and I’ve got one more game to try and do that – or maybe more with the play-off games and Scottish Cup final.”