Terry Butcher today insisted Hibs’ battling derby performance showed his players have the bottle for the fight despite Hearts inflicting a sixth straight defeat on the Easter Road side which leaves them just one point above the relegation play-off spot.
Two goals in four minutes from Callum Paterson earned the Jambos their fourth victory of the season over their Capital rivals despite Jordon Forster giving the Hibees a glimmer of hope by hauling one back with 21 minutes to go.
But while obviously bitterly disappointed, Hibs boss Butcher was adamant his players, many of whom are out of contract at the end of the season and expected to leave the club to make way for his planned overhaul, had shattered the claim that they had “downed tools”.
“Someone said to me there was an indication some of the players were not playing for me,” said Butcher. “But I do not know where they got that from. The players have been fine with me and I have been fine with the players.
“If there’s any indication or example of players playing, not so much for me but the football club, then they showed that. It was the best we have played for a long time. I felt we deserved more from the game, but that’s the way things are going for us at the moment. I told the boys I was really pleased with the way they played, the spirit they showed, the togetherness. I think they looked like a team again which we have not been looking in the past.”
Convinced repeat performances in the remaining three games against Partick Thistle, Ross County and Kilmarnock will see Hibs safe, Butcher went on: “People say all these things [about players downing tools] but all these rumours and stuff, where does it come from? It does not come from me, it does not come from the players and it does not come from anybody else.
“I said to the players people are going to have their say, we are going to get slaughtered, criticised, ridiculed and so on. We cannot stop that, we don’t have an effect on that because this match is over but what we can do is stick together as a team.
“I have been in this position before, Maurice Malpas and Michael Nelson have also been at teams in the past that have been relegated and there’s been nothing to cling to but we have a lot to grab hold of. It was the best we’ve played for a long time but we have to take that into the next three games, be the team that scores the goals, that gets a two-goal lead to defend.
“But to do that we have to train the way we did last week, play the way we did against Hearts. I think that’s possible, that’s feasible and that’s why I am still confident we will be fine. If you can hold your nerve in a game like that, under the pressure we were before the game having lost five matches and scored only one goal then you can hold your nerve in any match. It’s up to us to take that forward into the Partick Thistle match this weekend and if we play like we did I am very confident we will score goals and we will win.”