Paul Hanlon has insisted he’s relishing going head-to-head with red-hot Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney as Hibs face their most testing challenge of the season against the table-topping Premiership side.
The Dons travel to the Capital for the second time in four days for tomorrow night’s League Cup third-round clash, fresh from securing their five-point lead after a week in which they defeated champions Celtic, Hamilton and Hearts. And Rooney, although he started from the bench at Tynecastle following the birth of his son Ezra, has been at the heart of Aberdeen’s scintillating start to the season – eight wins out of eight – with five goals in his previous four games.
David Goodwillie proved a more than adequate stand-in against Hearts, scoring twice in the Dons’ 3-1 win in Gorgie, but manager Derek McInnes is expected to recall Rooney, who claimed 28 goals in 47 matches last season.
But, while admitting it’s going to be tough, Hanlon pointed to this time last year when then high-flying Dundee United pitched up at Easter Road in the same competition and scraped through 7-6 on penalties after Stubbs’ players came from behind three times to force extra-time.
The defender said: “It’s going to be a massive challenge, a chance for us to judge our squad on where we are against a team at that level.
“Rooney has been scoring goals for fun. He’s a handful and a lot of defenders in the top league have struggled to keep him quiet. But it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve played against him a few times and I’ll need to be on my toes every second of the 90 minutes. The pressure is always on us when we play at Easter Road, but this is a chance for us to go and show how good we are.
“They’ll be full of confidence but it’s a game we are relishing. We are also confident and ready for them. I’m sure there will be a big crowd, it should be a great game and an exciting one.
“People are still talking about what a great game the Dundee United one was to watch.
“We showed great character to come back from being behind three times to a team that was doing really well in the top league and had Matty Kennedy tucked away his penalty in the shoot-out it would have been us rather than United who went through.
“Something along those lines, without losing the three goals, would be good. More than a few of us have played Aberdeen before and the new boys who won’t would, I am sure, have been watching them beat Celtic.
“But We know we have good players, players capable of creating chances and scoring goals while we’ve been looking solid at the back.”