Terry Butcher today told his Hibs players to forget a showdown with St Johnstone and just concentrate on keeping themselves in the race for a top-six finish ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with Inverness.
The Englishman’s side trail sixth-placed St Johnstone, who have a game in hand, by two points and although Hibs and Saints go head-to-head at McDiarmid Park a week on Saturday in what could be a pivotal match in the battle to finish in the upper half of the Scottish Premiership table, both have two games to play before then. Hibs travel to Butcher’s old club Inverness Caledonian Thistle before heading to Glasgow to face Partick Thistle, while St Johnstone tackle Dundee United and then Ross County.
As he bids to ensure Hibs remain firmly on St Johnstone’s tail, Butcher, said: “It’s all about tomorrow, nothing else matters.”
Although Caley have already twice comprehensively beaten the Easter Road outfit, the second time as Butcher sat high in the stand of the Edinburgh ground contemplating his future in November, the Hibs boss firmly believes that if his players reproduce the performance they displayed in the second half of Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Motherwell, then they’ll be capable of causing Inverness problems.
However, at the same time, Butcher is well aware of the threat of a Caley backlash after John Hughes’ side suffered a 5-0 Scottish Cup demolition by Dundee United which saw both Greg Tansey and Marley Watkins sent off, the pair now suspended after Caley’s decision not to appeal their red cards. Hughes now faces a tough call ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final against Aberdeen, but Butcher believes Caley will prove just as dangerous with those drafted in undoubtedly determined to take a perhaps unexpected opportunity to stake their claim for a place in the historic clash at Celtic Park.
“It was horrible to watch as a former Caley man,” Butcher admitted, although any scrap of sympathy will have long gone by the time the Hibs coach pulls up on the banks of the Moray Firth.
He said: “Caley have already demolished Hibs twice this season so, for us, the only way is up. We’ll go there and I will demand the most from my players. It’s all about tomorrow, nothing else matters.
“We had some great times there and hopefully we have given them a team they are proud of and will carry them forward.
“However, we played against one of my old teams at the weekend and wanted to beat them and it will be exactly the same tomorrow.
“John has a bit of a problem in terms of which team he picks bearing in mind the side he wants for Sunday, but if I was in his shoes I’d forget the final and concentrate on us.
“They won’t be any less focused. They are very professional and they’ll be looking to meet us head-on. What the Caley players have done in the past following a reversal or a bad performance has been to bounce back and we are prepared for that.
“We know their squad very well and while we can only guess, given the suspensions, as to what team we are going to face, we’ll be prepared for the challenge.”
Butcher, naturally, would rather concentrate on what he believes is required to keep alive Hibs’ hopes of a top-six finish for the first time in four seasons. He said: “We scored three goals against a top-six team and three at home should have been enough to beat them – but it wasn’t.
“We’re going up there with a lot of confidence, the way we opened up a top-six side in that second half was very encouraging. If we can do that against Motherwell then hopefully we can do the same against Caley.”