Hibs boss: If cup replay goes to penalties, we’ll be ready

Neil Lennon believes the surface at Easter Road will 'suit both teams' tonight
Neil Lennon believes the surface at Easter Road will 'suit both teams' tonight
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Hibs boss Neil Lennon has revealed he’s ready to go all the way to penalties in tonight’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round replay against Hearts, adamant there is nothing to separate the Capital teams.

And, having adapted his game plan to take into account testing underfoot conditions at Tynecastle in the first match, he refuted the suggestion the better playing surface at Easter Road will suit Hearts’ style of play more than it will his own side.

Lennon insisted: “It will suit Hearts and it will suit us. There is nothing between the teams. It is the same pitch that both teams are playing on. If Hearts want to come and play football that will suit us down to the ground because not many teams come here and play football.

“It will be a challenge that we look forward to. It will be feisty for sure, and it will be raw. It will be physical but I think there will be more football played due to the conditions.”

The 90 minutes in Gorgie ten days ago ended goalless and Lennon admitted he’s prepared for all eventualities.

He said: “Have I thought about penalties? Yes. You can use four subs as well so we’ve thought about that,

“It’s difficult to practice penalties. It is tough to replicate the moment and the pressure your player is under. How is your goalkeeper feeling? These sort of things. But we’ll be prepared to go the distance regardless.”

Lennon insisted his weekend rant at his players – after a 1-1 draw against Raith Rovers saw them miss the chance to go nine points clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Championship – was designed to remind them that promotion is the over-riding priority this season. He did also concede, though, that as holder, the Scottish Cup holds the same status for the Easter Road club.

When it was put to him that losing to their biggest rivals – and with it their grip on a trophy it took 114 years to win – was something the Hibs fans could barely contemplate, Lennon retorted: “I don’t want to give it up to anybody. I don’t want to get beat and we are not in that mode of thinking.

“We are very positive going into the game. Our priority is the league. Our priority is the Scottish. We have two priorities now. I know I have been saying all along that the league is the priority – but I have been lying.”

Lennon admitted he was pleasantly surprised to discover he still “had the rage” within him to lambast his players, revealing he thought his fiery character had mellowed.

He said: “Am I a perfectionist? Yes, I think a lot of managers are. A wise old bird once told me ‘don’t look for perfect when the best will do’. But I didn’t get the best on Saturday.

“You’ll never get perfection. Whether it’s me, Brendan [Rodgers}, {Pep} Guardiola, but you have to strive for it. What actually pleased me is that I’ve still got the rage. I thought maybe I’d mellowed, but I’ve still got it in there. I caught myself the other day and that’s no bad thing, that it still means so much.

“It is rare, but there is a time and a place for moments like that. I did it at Celtic and I’m sure I’ll do it again at other clubs.”

Lennon felt, however, that his reaction at Stark’s Park had perhaps been blown out of proportion, saying: “A manager has every right to be angry after a poor performance, players accept him being angry and we move on. It’s done now.”