PAT FENLON today urged Hibs fans to give his players a “Hampden send-off” in their final SPL match against relegated Dundee tomorrow.
Victory over the Dens Park outfit would secure a seventh-place finish for Fenlon’s side and although they’d set their sights on a higher placing, the Easter Road manager believes ending up top of the bottom half of the table, allied to making the Scottish Cup and securing a Europa League spot, constitutes a “decent” season.
Fenlon has been rotating his squad over recent matches, with the cup final clash with Celtic a week on Sunday very much in mind, and yet Hibs have negotiated their post-split programme undefeated, culminating in back-to-back wins against Hearts and Kilmarnock. The visit of Dundee gives them the opportunity to string together three successive victories for only the second time this season.
While Fenlon intends to continue that policy tomorrow, top scorer Leigh Griffiths, who has added the Scottish Football Writers’ Footballer of theYear award to a glittering array of trophies acknowledging his 28 goals this season, has already told his boss he wants to face his old club as he bids to become the first Hibs player in 40 years to hit the 30 mark.
Griffiths was rested as a Scott Robertson goal and a double by Eoin Doyle saw off Killie in midweek, a decision which Fenlon insisted the 22-year-old had accepted with good grace, the manager reckoning that three games in six days for both him and derby-day-winner Ross Caldwell entitled them to a night off.
Fenlon, however, hinted Griffiths, who has scored in all three games against his old club this season, will return tomorrow by adding: “I felt it was a good time to give him a break but I am sure he will be raring to go at the weekend.”
For his part Griffiths said: “I wanted to play against Killie but I can understand where the manager’s coming from. I hope to play against Dundee, but I don’t know. I’ve got my target which is to score two goals before the Cup final and I want to do that tomorrow if I can. If I don’t play I won’t be able to get to that figure.”
Having seen his side leapfrog both Kilmarnock and Aberdeen with that win at Rugby Park, Fenlon now wants to see them end the SPL season with a flourish – and the backing of a bumper Easter Road gate.
He said: “I would ask the supporters, who have been fantastic all season, to come out and get behind us in their numbers and send them off hopefully with a victory and looking forward to Hampden.”
Although not entirely satisfied with the midweek performance, describing it partly good, partly average, Fenlon said: “We chopped and changed the team again. The pluses were the win, the fact Ryan McGivern got some game time, Kevin Thomson played another 60 minutes, Gary Deegan played 70 minutes and Scott Robertson the full match.
“We made a lot of changes but even so we have won away twice on the spin which is good. Now we want to finish that off with another win which would give us seventh place.”