Hibs go into battle for the sixth time against Premiership opposition on Sunday, the pressure on after three successive defeats which have all but ended their Championship title hopes.
But Lewis Stevenson believes anyone who thinks he and his team-mates are there for the taking as they face Scottish Cup holders Inverness Caley in the quarter-finals of this season’s competition is badly mistaken.
Yes, he admits, those losses in quick succession to Morton, Dumbarton and Queen of the South have left everyone at Easter Road bitterly disappointed but, he insisted the bald statistics don’t begin to tell the whole story.
An impressive run of just one defeat in 28 games has well and truly been blown apart but, contended Stevenson, the shock 3-0 loss to Morton apart, Alan Stubbs’ side are not suffering from a loss of form at such a crucial point in the season but just the lack of a touch of luck.
Stevenson, Hibs’ longest serving player whose 300th appearance for the Capital club was marred by the visit of Morton, insisted: “People who have been at the games know the results don’t show that we’ve played pretty well. People on the outside just see the result and think we haven’t played well, but that’s not the case.
“In each of those games we’ve had the chance to take the lead which might have brought about a dramatically different outcome but those are the fine margins in football.
“A few months ago things were going our way even when we didn’t play well. We were getting the results but I don’t think things have changed too much apart from the Morton game which they deserved to win.
“I didn’t think we deserved anything from that game but against Dumbarton and Queen of the South we did enough to get a win.”
Stevenson agreed the fact these defeats have occurred at this time of the season probably means more is being made of them than might have been the case had such a run taken place much earlier, but he admitted: “To go three games without a point at any time of the season is bad, we know that. At this moment we will take a win however it comes about, even if we don’t play well.”
Sunday’s match and the League Cup final against Ross County seven days later means the spotlight will switch away from league business for a couple of weeks, something Stevenson feels may be beneficial to him and his team-mates.
And having beaten Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone en route to the League Cup final before knocking Hearts out of the Scottish Cup, Stevenson was adamant facing another Premiership side holds no fears.
He said: “We’ve had success against them, good runs in the cups so we won’t be worried in any way about playing another Premiership side. Obviously we respect them, they are good teams but we managed to get results and hopefully we can do so again.”
Caley have enjoyed a somewhat inconsistent season under former Hibs boss John Hughes, just one of eight managers Stevenson has played under at Easter Road but his return will, the 27-year-old declared, have no bearing on the game itself.
He said: “Caley lost a few key players at the start of the season, Graeme Shinnie, Marley Watkins and so on but they have had a close-knit squad for a few seasons. They’ve had success, they won the cup last year and they’ll want to defend it. Hopefully we catch them on an off day because on their day they can beat anyone – a bit like ourselves when you think about it. So whoever performs on the day will get the result.”
Hughes was present to see Morton, managed by yet another former HIbs boss in Jim Duffy, rack up a comprehensive 3-0 victory but Stevenson doesn’t believe those 90 minutes or subsequent results will have painted a false picture as far as Yogi is concerned.
“I think the pressure is on both of us,” he contended, “We are at home and want to win it here but they are the holders and will be determined to keep it as long as they can. Yogi was a good manager here and we know it will be a tough game but it’s one we are really looking forward to.”
Often in such matches and when a team is on a run such as Hibs are enduring at the moment, the most unlikely of players can emerge as the hero on the day – so who would be against Stevenson being that player, the little left-back having scored his first goal for the club against Caley, nearly six years after making his debut and some 104 games into his Easter Road career.
Joking his three goals last season had “opened the floodgates,” Stevenson, who also scored against Dundee United earlier in the season to take his career total to six, said: “It would be nice, but I am not thinking about that. First and foremost it’s about doing my job. I’d take anything though. I remember that goal well. Callum Booth had also scored his first goal for Hibs earlier in the game but his was a contender for goal of the season, mine took a huge deflection.
“But a goal is a goal so we’d happily take one however it comes about.”
While admitting he and his team-mates face a huge eight days in their season, Stevenson was adamant no-one was even thinking about next week’s trip to Hampden. “We’ll focus on that one when it comes,” he insisted. “At the moment it’s all about Inverness and trying to get into the semi-finals.”