Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has warned his players they’ll have to tough it out to claim their place in the SPL’s top six.
The Easter Road club go into tonight’s home clash with Kilmarnock in sixth spot, a single point ahead of not only the Ayrshire outfit but Aberdeen and Dundee United although, incredibly, they remain just three points off Inverness Caley who have been joined in second place by Highland rivals Ross County after their win over the Dons last night.
Fenlon, however, is well aware there is little margin for error, with Hibs having only five matches left before the split.
They face a tough run-in with an Edinburgh derby to follow tonight’s game and, thereafter, fixtures against three teams currently ahead of them in the table, Motherwell, Caley Thistle and Celtic with two of them away from home.
The manager feels Hibs have been a touch unlucky in the way the fixtures have fallen throughout the season, away twice to Celtic and also to Motherwell and United, the two teams reckoned to be favourites at the start of the campaign to be battling it out for the runners-up spot, while his side have also twice made the long journey to Dingwall to face a County side which has taken the top flight by storm.
Now, however, having taken four points from two away games against St Mirren and United, Fenlon, well aware of the testing schedule which lies ahead, has underlined the importance of winning tonight.
Hibs’ last two results brought a dismal run of form, which threatened to wreck their season, to an end and Fenlon now wants his players to build on those displays. He said: “I think our performances in those two games were very good and the results were decent as well.
“We felt we should have had six points, but four out of six on the road is quite decent in this league”
Making an oblique reference to the controversial spot-kick which allowed United to snatch a late equaliser, Fenlon said: “The circumstances of the penalty dampened things a bit but when you look at it in the cold light of day and look at the performance then you have to take a lot of positives out of it.
“We were disappointed we didn’t hang on for the three points but you can’t blame the players for that, they did enough to win the game. They were disappointed for a few minutes afterwards but I think when they looked at their performance they were really pleased with themselves.”
Now, though, Fenlon believes his side must build on those displays starting tonight. He said: “That’s the key for us. Winning at home is vital but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy as Killie are a decent side who are on a good run themselves.
“We have a tough run. We have been a little bit unlucky in relation to the amount of away games we have played against the top teams as well. But that’s life, you have to get on with it and, in fairness, our better results have probably been against the bigger teams as such.”
Hibs will be boosted tonight by the news top scorer Leigh Griffiths is fit, the striker having recovered from the “dead leg” he suffered against United.