Terry Butcher was today aiming for a bumper Christmas for Hibs fans as he eyed four wins over the festive period.
The Easter Road outfit kick off the hectic holiday programme with a visit from St Johnstone, the team immediately above them in the table, followed by a trip to face Ross County in Dingwall before taking on Kilmarnock and Hearts at home, games which the Hibs boss believes are “winnable”.
And although disappointed to have suffered his first defeat as boss of the Capital club, Butcher insisted he was mightily heartened by his team’s performance against Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic, claiming only the width of a post denied skipper Liam Craig a goal and Hibs a point, leaving Teemu Pukki’s first-half strike enough to give the Hoops victory.
But having seen Neil Lennon’s players score seven goals against Hearts and five more against Motherwell before suffering their own humiliation at the hands of Barcelona, Butcher firmly believes Hibs’ display at Celtic Park was further proof of the progress being made since he and assistant Maurice Malpas took over from Pat Fenlon last month.
He said: “We were severely punished for one mistake, but the goal apart we defended very well, worked hard and in the second half we pushed men forward to put them under pressure with the wind blowing down a wet, skiddy pitch when there was always the chance of a mistake from a defender.
“We had a go, we had three up at the end and I thought we were very unlucky not to get something from it and, but for the width of a post, we would have.
“Full credit to the players. They worked their socks off, stuck with it, were very committed and we could walk out of Celtic Park with our heads held high.
“That bit of quality is just not there in the final third yet but I feel we have come a long way and believe that if we get to grips with the final ball and shot then the goals will come and we will go on to win games,” Butcher went on.
“I’m very optimistic over the festive period with what we have got and what we can do. It’s four winnable games or games we think we have a good chance of winning. I say ‘let’s go and win every one of them’. If you can get on a good run, win a few of these games over Christmas and the New Year – if not all of them – then you will shoot up the league.
“We don’t have Celtic to play again for a while but if we can show the same tenacity and spirit against other teams then we will do very, very well.
“We should be very encouraged by what we saw, there’s lots to build on. We are still taking small steps forward but I am pleased with the progress so far.”
• A Lewis Allan goal earned Hibs’ East of Scotland team a Qualifying League draw against Heriot-Watt University at Riccarton.