He is Hibs’ longest serving player and rapidly closing in on a 300th match in green and white and yet today’s trip to Cappielow will be a first for Lewis Stevenson.
That he hasn’t visited the home of Greenock Morton over the course of the past ten years is obviously down to the fact the vast bulk of Stevenson’s career has been spent in the upper echelons of Scottish football.
Now, though, like the other members of Alan Stubbs’ squad, making a return to those heights is all that occupies their thoughts, a run of 15 matches unbeaten including eight successive victories in the Championship have raised hopes that promotion second time round – if not the title itself – can be secured.
To that end, as novel as Stevenson may find his surroundings – Cappielow being one of those truly “old-fashioned” stadiums last visited by Hibs exactly 17 years ago – his focus will be entirely on claiming another three points to keep the pressure on Rangers who are again clear leaders having beaten Dumbarton in midweek.
Stevenson, however, admitted that’s easier said than done, pointing to Hibs’ narrow victory over Jim Duffy’s side earlier in the season in Edinburgh and the fact the Championship new boys currently sit fourth in the table.
The 27-year-old said: “I’ve never played at Cappielow before, so I’m looking forward to experiencing another stadium.
“We played them in the second game of the season and it was close. They were a good team and caused us a lot of problems but they’ll cause lots of teams trouble. We won 1-0 with Jason Cummings scoring but it was a tight game and they had chances too.
“Morton are fourth in the league so it’s going to be tough. But we want to keep our run going and if we play the way we have been then we’ve got a good chance. We’ve shown in recent weeks that we can win games all sorts of ways, grinding out results or by putting on a performance. Either way we will take the three points.”
Cummings, with 14 goals to his name, is the obvious threat to Morton but Stevenson highlighted how their striker Denny Johnstone has scored six in as many games.
The left back said: “He’s on fire at the moment and we’ll have to keep an eye on him, but we’ve been defending pretty well and hopefully we’ll keep that up today.”
Already, of course, many are talking of the showdown between Hibs and Rangers at Ibrox a few days after Christmas in very much the way the Glasgow club’s visit to Easter Road at the beginning of last month dominated the weeks preceding it.
Stevenson insisted Stubbs’ players will take the same approach with important games like today’s and the visits of Falkirk and Queen of the South to contend with before then while Rangers themselves face a testing trip to Raith Rovers this afternoon before taking on Morton and the Bairns.
He said: “We focus on ourselves and if we keep going it will take care of itself. There are no easy games, the toughest ones can be the ones where you don’t focus fully, but we won’t make that mistake. We go into every game with a clear head and look to get the three points.
“Are the fans thinking about December 28? They can, but we are not. We know the biggest games of the season are the ones coming up, the Rangers games take care of themselves.”
Today’s match marks a return to action after a fortnight’s break due to last weekend’s Scottish Cup fixtures, a period in which Stubbs gave his players week off, one which, Stevenson insisted, had been much appreciated by himself and his team-mates.
Joking that it “felt like the first day back at school”, as they reunited to begin preparing for the festive programme, Stevenson said: “It was a chance to rest niggles and get healthy again. We are fit, ready to go and looking forward to the game.
“It was a full week off, but most of the boys do a bit at home and came back in for sessions. We are professionals and we know how to keep ourselves fit. It was nice to get a wee break but everyone was buzzing when we reported back.
“We’ve got a good group here, we all keep in touch over social media. It’s a good place to be. There were a few times in the past when you were dreading coming into training but there’s a great atmosphere about the place and we can’t wait to get going again. There are no cliques here and that comes across on the pitch, last season and now. Guys like David Gray, Liam Fontaine and Paul Hanlon are in charge of the committee and are good at keeping us all together. The camaraderie takes care of itself.
“We may have had a few days off, but to be honest I think the boys would have been happy to come in to train because we’ve been going so well. We are ready, no excuses. We’ve had a tough week’s training but enjoyable.”