Paul Hanlon: Hibs’ play-off task is crystal clear

Paul Hanlon believes Raith could be in two minds about tactics
Paul Hanlon believes Raith could be in two minds about tactics
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Paul Hanlon insists Hibs will benefit from having a “clear picture” of what they must do as they attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Raith Rovers in the second leg of the Premiership play-off quarter-final at Easter Road on Saturday.

The defender remains steadfast in his belief that his team will progress to a semi-final showdown with Falkirk next week despite trailing to a first-leg goal from Rovers striker Harry Panayiotou. Hanlon explained that the Hibs players will be focused by the knowledge that nothing other than a win will keep their promotion bid alive. By contrast, he expects an element of uncertainty in the Raith camp about how to try and preserve their slender advantage.

“It’s disappointing to be a goal down but it’s only half-time in the tie,” he said. “We’re still full of confidence going into the game at Easter Road. It’s still in our hands and we have a clear picture of the job we have to do – we have to win the game. In any situation, even just in a 90-minute game, 1-0 is a dodgy lead because you have to decide whether to go for it and make it more comfortable or sit in and soak up the pressure. That’s something Raith have to worry about – we know exactly what we have to do on Saturday.”

Hibs failed to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Rangers in the play-off semi-final last year when they could only muster a 1-0 win in the second leg. Hanlon believes fighting back from 1-0 down will be far more achievable and insisted the players will be able to cope with any anxiety among a home support who will crave an early goal.

“The game’s 90 minutes long – we’ve got all that time to get us to the next stage of the play-offs,” said the centre-back.

“We can’t just go for goal every time we get the ball. We’re an attacking side though so we will be looking to get on the front foot.

“I’m sure there’ll be nerves from the fans because it means so much but we can only concentrate on what we can control and that’s the 90 minutes we’re facing on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to it and we’re still confident that we’ll make it through.

“We’re confident going in against anyone at Easter Road. We always fancy our chances there and Saturday will be no different.”

Hibs were made to rue missed chances at Stark’s Park on Wednesday, and Hanlon knows there will be no room for such profligacy at the weekend.

“You only have to look at our squad to see there’s goals in us but when the chances come, we need to be ruthless and take them,” he said. “We had a couple of good chances against Raith and we had balls flashing across the six-yard box that needed someone there just to put the ball in the net.

“There’s no doubt we’ve got the quality but we just need to make sure we all perform.”