Neil Lennon believes an open match between the two biggest clubs in the Championship will bring out the best in his Hibs team tomorrow.
Dundee United, relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season, face the title favourites at Easter Road in a match which will be televised live by Sky Sports.
Hibs are one point behind league leaders Queen of the South after two games without a win, while fifth-place United will be aiming to kick-start their campaign after an inconsistent opening to their promotion bid under Ray McKinnon.
Having found many of his team’s opponents so far adopting a cautious approach, Lennon is welcoming the likely prospect of the Tayside team, not particularly renowned for their defensive solidity, coming to Edinburgh with a sense of adventure in their play.
“This kind of game gets the juices flowing, especially with us being at home, where we’ve been getting big crowds,” he said. “I think Dundee United will bring out the best in the players. I think they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. And I think the game will be open, with both teams going for a win. Teams are looking at us now and parking the bus. That’s their prerogative but I’m not too sure Dundee United will or even can play that way.”
Lennon is thrilled to have added Neal Eardley, a Welsh internationalist with Premier League experience, to his squad after this week securing the 27-year-old on a short-term deal until January. The defender has been put through a “rigorous” trial following three years of injury torment, but will now compete with captain David Gray for the right-back berth.
“Neal’s come through quite a rigorous fitness period where we wanted to get a good look at him,” said Lennon. “He’s a good footballer – experienced, an international, and at 27 he’s had a lot of football at a high level. Injuries just curtailed his progress.
“He’s come here with an open mind, he looks like he’s enjoyed it and we’ve been quite impressed with him. It’s a short-term deal but it works two ways. If we’re pleased with him, we may look to lengthen that.
“When you’ve had injuries like that and get the opportunity to come back, well, you don’t realise what you have until you’re on the outside looking in. I know that from my own experiences with a long-term injury, so there is a hunger about him, I recognise that, and he’s sacrificed a lot to come here. His attitude has been brilliant.
“I really like his attitude, he’s a good pro. And he can really handle the ball, which is an important attribute for the modern-day full-back. He knows the position very well.
“We’ve got two very experienced right backs now who can dovetail very well. If we decide to play a certain way, we like what David Gray brings to the team, consistency, he’s a very good captain, an excellent professional who has the respect of the dressing room.
“Neal is very similar. He has that good personality. They are two very good players, so we can rotate. We didn’t have a replacement at right-back, we would have had to change the formation, so I’m glad that one is over the line.”