Martin Boyle reckons Hibs have a couple of points to make against St Mirren tomorrow, the Buddies’ draw at Easter Road the only hiccup in the Capital club’s unbeaten run stretching back to August.
Boyle scored the equaliser that day to ensure Hibs avoided defeat but, with the gap on Championship leaders Rangers cut to five points after last weekend’s stunning win over the Ibrox outfit, the forward claims the trip to Paisley represents yet another “must-win” challenge for him and his team-mates.
However, with Saints boss Ian Murray and his new assistant, former Hibs manager Alex Miller, witnessing not only Rangers’ first league defeat of the season but a convincing League Cup triumph over Premiership strugglers Dundee United in the space of just four days, Boyle believes they’ll have been left with plenty of thinking to do.
Eleven wins in 12 matches have Hibs are taking on the air of being unstoppable, the former Montrose and Dundee player claimed, pointing out how they’ve clocked up victory after victory while under pressure to prevent Rangers running away with the title.
Boyle said: “I’d think a lot of teams will be fearing us right now. I’m sure anyone who has watched us over the last few weeks can’t help but be impressed, the manner we have played, the goals we have scored and the obvious confidence in the boys.
“People were saying the Rangers match was a must win for us, but so were the games at Falkirk and Raith Rovers leading up to that one and the boys have just kept coming up with answers.
“Tomorrow falls into that category again, we are chasing the Championship itself so we are looking to win every game from here to the end of the season. We hate defeat as much as anyone, but even a draw leaves us disappointed. The way we are playing at the moment we’re looking unstoppable.”
Head coach Alan Stubbs hailed his side’s energy levels against United considering the effort they had put in to overcome Rangers and Boyle agreed with his boss that such a test was just what they needed after the high of the weekend.
He said: “I think it was important to get us back on the ground and at the moment we feel the more games we have the better. Wednesday night was a terrific performance, those of us on the bench were just desperate to get on and be part of it.
“You can see the strength in depth we have, everyone is choking to get on including those who are in the stand having not made the matchday squad. You have to take your chance when you get it because you can see the boys who come on are just as strong as those going off.”
Boyle’s cameo in the dying minutes against United was his first since the beginning of last month, a niggling knee injury the reason for his absence, but he almost marked the occasion by setting fellow substitute Farid El Alagui up for a goal. But El Alagui, making his first appearance of the season following his own injury problems missed his kick from only a few yards out although Lewis Stevenson did add a third to go with those earier strikes from skipper David Gray and Jason Cummings.
“I think Farid’s forgotten how to score,” joked Boyle, “but it’s great to see him back because he brings a lot to the team and is a real fans’ favourite. To see him back out on the pitch just gives the place a further lift and again makes the competition for places all the harder.
“I was just delighted to get on. I’d picked up a wee knock on the knee on which I’d had my operation in the summer and was feeling it now and again so the physios told me to take care, to watch what I was doing. I had an injection and I seem to have shaken it off.”
Like everyone at Easter Road Boyle will be looking on with interest on Monday when the League Cup semi-final draw is made with Premiership champions and leaders Celtic along with two other top-flight clubs, Ross County and St Johnstone, going into the hat with them. But it will be no more than a cursory look.
He said: “We’ll have a look to see who we get but will then focus on the league until that comes around. It’s something to look forward to, the fans can enjoy a day out at Hampden. It’s a bonus but we must keep our eyes on what we are seeking to achieve in the league.”
To that end, Boyle is anticipating another tough game against St Mirren, the Buddies down in eighth place and trailing Hibs by 18 points having begun the season with the aim of making the play-offs.
Boyle said: “We don’t want to see what we’ve done in the past few weeks spoiled by dropping anything but we know St Mirren are scrapping for points. They’ve not had the start to the season they’d have liked but we had a slow start ourselves last season and got back on track.
“It may be they are struggling to adapt to life in the Championship and after the shock of relegation perhaps the confidence has gone a little. But this is a very hard league to play in, every game is as tough as the next, there’s something different in every one of them.
“I’d imagine St Mirren will start to pick up points – but not tomorrow.”