Hibs boss Terry Butcher was today eyeing a second hat-trick of victories after watching his side clock up a third successive win over Ross County.
Goals from Sam Stanton and Tom Taiwo ended a five-match winless run for the Easter Road outfit and now Butcher wants his players to repeat the trick against Kilmarnock, a side Hibs have already beaten twice this season with the 3-0 win in Edinburgh at the end of December rated the Capital club’s best since he became manager.
And Butcher believes Hibs will head for Rugby Park on Saturday with their confidence raised not only by a win which took them to within a point of the Scottish Premiership’s top six but by the potential return of skipper Liam Craig, who was suspended for the visit of the Staggies, and winger Duncan Watmore, forced to sit it out at the weekend with a foot injury.
Butcher, who has classed each of Hibs remaining matches before the split as a “cup final,” said: “Killie away is a good chance for us. We’ve beaten them twice this season and we want to make it a hat-trick, another hat-trick after beating Ross County for a third time.
“We should go and enjoy it. It’s a good challenge and the boys will be buoyed by that performance and result. We got the best possible reaction after the Raith Rovers game. I thought we were tremendous in the first ten minutes when we passed the ball more than we did for the whole 90 minutes against Raith, and that was exciting.
“The win took us over the 30-point mark. It was only our second win of 2014 and we want more. We’ve said we want to be in the top six and we are another step towards that.”
Having been forced to field a patched up side – Scott Robertson, Kevin Thomson and Owain Tudur Jones also sidelined by injury – Butcher admitted his team selection for the trip to Ayrshire will be “interesting” with Craig free from suspension and Watmore expected to be fit.
“Duncan had a run out on Thursday afternoon and was not quite right. I like to name my team on a Friday so everyone settles down for the weekend and to do that I had to make a quick decision. It was better to sacrifice him for one game and have him available for the rest.”
The Hibs boss felt the key to victory over Ross County was the strong spine his team possessed, able to field his first choice back four for the first time in a month, Tom Taiwo “absolutely tremendous” in the middle of the park and newcomer Danny Haynes adding pace to complement the energy of youngsters such as Stanton and Danny Handling.
He said: “We have good pace throughout the team, hungry young boys backed up by good, experienced players and if we can continue to play at that level, then we can look forward from one cup final to the next.”
Hibs Under-20s are in action tonight against Falkirk at the Falkirk Stadium (kick-off 6pm).
n PRESTONPANS Hibs Supporters’ Club are holding a lunch in memory of 18-year-old David Paul, the Hibs player who tragically died in December, with the proceeds going to a charity nominated by his family.
The event will take place in the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club on Sunday, April 13, starting at 12.30pm. Scott Glynn will chair proceedings with guest speakers John Rowbotham and Paul Reid.
Tickets costing £30 per person, or £300 for a table of ten, can be bought from Steven Cross (0791 715 0847) or Scott Craig (0782 748 0807).