Hibs boss Neil Lennon has urged his players to hammer home the advantage of having six of their final nine Championship matches at Easter Road in front of bumper crowds.
Hibs hit the final straight with a six point lead over their closest challengers Falkirk, the Bairns and Morton having both overtaken Dundee United in the Championhip, the Tannadice outfit having slipped to fourth, ten points adrift, after being beaten by Hibs and then basement club St Mirren.
The Capital team face Dumbarton tomorrow in the first of a run of three home games – visits from Falkirk and Morton follow – with second and third playing each other later in the day, presenting Lennon’s players with the opportunity to widen the gap provided, of course, they win their own match,
But while admitting his players have put themselves in a strong position, Lennon has demanded they now turn up the heat on their opponents while warning them not to get too cocky, revealing that they are also playing for a place in his side to face Aberdeen in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at the end of next month.
Agreeing last week’s 1-0 win at Tannadice was “psychologically very significant”, he said: “We knew that if we lost the game United could have closed to within a point and we knew if we won the game it would effectively put them under huge pressure to win their remaining games – and the chasing pack as well.
“We’ve now got six home games in the remaining nine and it’s really important we hammer home the advantage of being at home. We’re getting good crowds so we have to approach every game in the same manner as last Friday, the intensity of the team performance is really what I’m looking for.”
The victory over United ended a run of four winless league games for Hibs and while conceding he can’t guarantee there won’t be any more below-par performances, Lennon has his fingers crossed that won’t be the case. “There is an incentive for the players, there’s a semi-final, places up for grabs so I don’t want to take the foot off the pedal.
“Dumbarton have been a tough nut to crack. They had a great win last weekend but we know if we can win the game it puts pressure on Falkirk and Morton who are playing later on. It’s not a case of teams putting pressure on us, it’s a case of us putting pressure on everyone else.”
Having said that, Lennon admitted it won’t be easy to shake off Falkirk and Morton. He said: “It’s far from a foregone conclusion. Falkirk have put a very good run together and Morton are having a fantastic season.
“We know they have to play each other, they have to play Dundee United, and the beauty of this league is that teams are going for promotion, play-off places, fighting against relegation.
“What we have to avoid is complacency and outside influences telling the players it’s all wrapped up.
“Nerves are always a good thing as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s a great time to be involved with the club and if I was playing I would really be looking forward to every game, you have the chance of winning promotion, a chance of winning a semi-final. They’ve earned the right to be in this position.”