Dylan McGeouch today admitted the heat is on as Hibs chase both promotion and Scottish Cup glory – but he insisted Alan Stubbs’ players won’t crack under the pressure.
Hibs go into tonight’s match against Livingston embroiled in a battle with Rangers for second place in the Championship, last night’s result at Ibrox hauling the Glasgow team within two points with a game in hand.
But McGeouch is intent on forcing Rangers to play catch-up once again by extending Hibs’ already impressive unbeaten run. And it is that statistic, beaten over 90 minutes just once in 25 matches, which the on-loan Celtic player believes proves he and his team-mates won’t falter as they also look forward to a Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk.
He said: “I grew up in the system at Celtic where it was drummed into you from an early age that you win every game. Now here at Easter Road we are going into most games as favourites to win. It’s a pressure, but I think the run we are on shows we can handle it.
“Hearts have a decent gap between ourselves and Rangers and that, I think, allows them to enjoy their football with maybe not too much pressure on them. But with Rangers and ourselves going for second spot we’re looking to come out of every game with a positive result. Rangers will be looking to turn things on us by winning but by the same token we’re determined to keep our run going and put the pressure back on them.”
McGeouch acknowledged Livingston are living with a different kind of pressure, Mark Burchill’s players six points adrift at the bottom of the table, having lost their last four games, with just one win to their name in their last 11 matches and only two victories in their last 15 fixtures.
Little wonder then that the bookies have Hibs as red hot favourites tonight, Stubbs’ side having already beaten Livingston, quoted as 9/1 outsiders, home and away this season. McGeouch, however, was adamant the opposition will be treated with the greatest of respect given the position they find themselves in.
He said: “Livingston will be desperate to get themselves out of the automatic relegation place and if they can do that then they’d probably hope to avoid the play-off at the bottom of the league. They’ll be battling for every point.
“I’m sure they’ll be giving it a go and again it will be up to us to handle the pressure. I think you only have to look at Cowdenbeath, beaten 10-0 by Hearts one week and then holding Rangers to a no-scoring draw the next, that tells you that in this league teams are more than capable of taking points off each other.
“As far as we are concerned it’s a case of getting out there, turning in another professional performance. We’ve gone into a lot of games recently in this situation and come out with the result so hopefully we can not only do that but put on a good display for our fans by getting the ball down and playing a bit of entertaining football for them.”
While the clash between Hibs and Livingston on the opening day of the season was memorable for goalkeeper Mark Oxley’s winning goal, the second match at Almondvale was, McGeouch believes, a turning point in the Edinburgh side’s season, a 4-0 victory which followed disappointing draws with Raith Rovers and Dumbarton, results which cast further doubt on their promotion credentials following what was a disappointing start to the campaign.
The 22-year-old said: “We didn’t start the best, but we got a good result there that night and, I think, that was the start of this good run which has also seen us get into the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
That game also marked McGeouch’s first goal, a penalty kick after Jason Cummings had been fouled, an incident which caused a little contretemps with striker Dominique Malonga. He had seen his spot-kick saved by Dumbarton goalkeeper Danny Rogers a week earlier – although he wasn’t alone in claiming the ball had crossed the line – an he made his displeasure at being relieved of spot-kick duty clear.
McGeouch recalled: “Jason wanted to take it because he’d won it but it had been decided before the game that I’d be on penalties. Dominiuqe wasn’t too chuffed about it but that’s good to see, all a striker ever wants to do is score goals.
“The main thing was the ball ended up in the back of the net, it put us 3-0 up and Paul Heffernan added another to make it a comfortable win for us. Hopefully we can enjoy another good night but the main thing is the three points and keeping Rangers under pressure.”