Martin Boyle has admitted he’s just happy to have the Scottish Cup games against Hearts over and done with – so he and his Easter Road team-mates can concentrate on wrapping up the Championship title.
For weeks, the clashes with the Tynecastle outfit have dominated the Edinburgh football scene, the need for a replay overshadowing Hibs’ bid for promotion and, possibly, one reason why vital points were dropped against Ayr United and then Raith Rovers.
But now Boyle insists all eyes are focused on tightening Hibs’ grip at the top of the table, a victory over Dunfermline this evening providing an opportunity, depending on the outcome of Dundee United’s match with Morton, to extend a lead which currently stands at seven points.
Hibs boss Neil Lennon has repeatedly stated the need for greater consistency when it comes to the league, but Boyle believes the “buzz” from that stunning 3-1 win over Hearts in midweek will carry over into the visit from the Pars.
He said: “There’s a lot of smiles on the faces and everyone seems happy. We were anyway but there’s that extra buzz around the place.
“You saw how big the game is around Edinburgh. It was basically for the fans, for the bragging rights and stuff like that. We’re just glad it’s out of the way and we can concentrate on the league, to be honest.
“It was a massive game for us. We went in there for a battle and came out victorious. That’s what we are looking to do. We’re excited to be in the next round of the cup – that’s all that mattered.”
Boyle admitted it will be difficult to repeat the heroics of Wednesday night, but believes the backing Lennon’s players will get from a support still basking in the glow that only a derby win can bring will help lift them again.
The 23-year-old forward said: “The manager keeps saying it’s hard being up there and then down here. It’s hard to maintain it, but we’ve got to remain consistent.
“It will obviously be hard to top the atmosphere tonight, but I’m sure the fans will turn out in their numbers and come and support us.”
The crowd of 20,205 for the replay was the biggest at Easter Road since the redevelopment of the stadium was completed and, insisted Boyle, produced an atmosphere to rival Celtic Park or Liverpool’s Anfield.
The former Montrose and Dundee player said: “It was unbelieveable experiencing that atmosphere. Being on the pitch gave you goosebumps and coming out before the game was really breathtaking.
“That’s what happens when you watch on TV and you have your Celtic Park and Anfield.
“But you try to block it out, just to get through the game. You just go into your own little bubble and then, after the game, you let it all out and take it all in.
“It was a magical moment as you can see with all the videos from the fans that are going about.”
One such clip of the team enjoying a lap of honour with Sunshine on Leith blasting out in the background was posted by Boyle’s fiancee Rachael Small, a member of the Hibs Ladies team.
“She was there and she was proud of me,” said Boyle. “She was delighted and all the Hibs Ladies were there. It just left everyone with smiles on their faces.
“You could hear Sunshine on Leith from a couple of miles away. I’ve seen videos of that. It was absolutely brilliant.”
Such was the ease with which Hibs won the match against a side currently fourth in the Premiership and with ambitions of climbing higher to secure European football next season, Hearts boss Ian Cathro was forced to admit he’d probably “over-estimated” where his side are currently at.
Boyle’s take, however, was a little more simple. He said: “We were just up for it. The first game was just a battle. There wasn’t much football played and we couldn’t get the ball down. But when it came to the time, I thought we were just in their faces and didn’t give them time on the ball. We were really direct and got at them from the off. There was a bit of talk about them not knowing what the derby is about and we had a lot more boys up for it.”
Hearts had almost seemed dismissive of Hibs, Cathro adamant the superior playing surface at Easter Road would suit his players. But, again, Boyle insisted he and his team-mates simply over-ran their opponents. He said: “We did a power of running and dominated the midfield. The two boys up front ran their socks off and the defence won every header to give us a platform to go and express ourselves and play in front of the big crowd.”
Having enjoyed the moment, Boyle admitted Hibs can afford no more slip-ups. He said: “Hopefully we can take steps towards the title with three points against Dunfermline. Somebody will lose points between United and Morton but we need to go out there and win to extend our lead or stay seven clear.”