Terry Butcher today claimed the chase for a top-six finish will bring out the best of his players even although five of the seven teams they face in the run-in are already in the upper half of the Scottish Premiership.
Hibs lie seventh in the table, three points behind St Johnstone and, to make their task even tougher, four of their remaining games will be away from home, two of them against the only sides in the run-in sitting below them – Partick Thistle and Hearts.
Hibs begin their bid to claim a top-six spot for their first time in four seasons with back-to-back home games against Dundee United and Motherwell, the Arabs first up at Easter Road tomorrow night.
Butcher admitted it’s imperative Hibs make the most of those matches before hitting the road to face, in quick succession, Inverness Caley, Partick, Saints and Hearts, their pre-split programme ending with a visit from high-flying Aberdeen.
But, the Hibs boss insisted, he’s relishing the challenge with a points tally already in mind which he believes will be enough to see Hibs hit their target.
Conceding that St Johnstone will have received a huge boost following their 3-0 win over Motherwell in midweek, Butcher believes playing tomorrow night offers Hibs the opportunity to exert some pressure on Tommy Wright’s side before the Perth club face the Dons at Pittodrie on Saturday.
Butcher said: “They’ve laid down the gauntlet for us to pick up and we want to do that in our next two matches at home, these are games we feel we can go well in.
“We’ve got seven games to go, two at home, four away and then a final one at Easter Road, but I think the better the team we play against the better we play against ourselves. It certainly proves a good challenge for us but we know exactly what we have to do and when we have to do it.
“We go from Friday night to Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday and Monday and play at all different times but each is 90 minutes of football that we want to win. I feel we can win every one of them so we will be having a right go.”
Although United are nine points ahead of Hibs, the two matches between the sides this season ended in draws with Butcher’s men conceding a two-goal lead in the final ten minutes at Tannadice in January, Butcher agreeing that in hindsight those were two vital points to lose.
He said: “We can’t look back and change what has happened. But what we can do is finish the job off properly this time, make sure we put ourselves in a similar position where we are ahead in the game and then hopefully close the game out.
“To do that we have to stop them from playing, we have to impose ourselves on the game and make sure we play our game, that we don’t stand back and admire United.”
He added: “I think if we can achieve top six it will be a wonderful feat – but we want to make that a reality.”