Hibs boss Pat Fenlon feels he can take a degree of satisfaction at seeing his side equal last season’s entire points total with little more than half of the current campaign gone – but he still believes there’s plenty of room to do better.
Although a draw against basement outfit Dundee cast something of a cloud over Easter Road, the silver lining for Fenlon and his players was reaching the 33-point mark which, he insisted, was a measure of the improvement which has taken place at the Capital club, Hibs having soared from second bottom to fourth place this time round.
Hibs have, of course, been even higher, flirting briefly with top spot itself, while an inconsistent run of results in recent weeks has seem the slip down the table a little, now trailing Inverness Caley and Motherwell, who have replaced them in that position tucked in behind leaders Celtic by four points.
While supporters may be a touch disappointed at seeing that happen, Fenlon rightly feels he has Hibs moving in the right direction at last, the situation they now find themselves in one which most fans would have happily settled for before a ball was kicked.
Fenlon, though, believes that Craig Brown, manager of Sunday’s opponents Aberdeen, will share both his sense of contentment and his conviction that things might, just, have been even better. Having finished ninth last season, the Dons sit in fifth place, two points behind Hibs and ten short of the tally they posted last season.
Asked if he felt both he and Brown would be happy with how things had panned out thus far given the trials and tribulations they endured last year, Fenlon said: “I know we are happy, but as a manager you want to improve and to continue doing that, but from where we have been to where we are now I think we have improved.
“I also think Aberdeen have done very well. Since Craig has been in there, position-wise they have improved drastically as well, so I think if we were doing a report at this stage the two of us will be happy, but, as with all managers, we will want to keep going. We don’t want to stand still.
“While it’s pleasing to have equalled the points we earned last season, I think it is important to kick on from here. We have got to where we were over the full course of last season and when you look back we were perhaps lucky to stay up on that basis.
“Now it is important we try to build on that.”
The fact Aberdeen are within touching distance of Hibs as the teams prepare to meet for a third time this season – a fourth encounter due hard on the heels of Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off as they clash again in the William Hill Scottish Cup – is very much down to the fact the Dons have twice emerged triumphant already this season.
On both occasions a single goal decided matters, Aberdeen winning 2-1 at Pittodrie and then 1-0 at Easter Road, with Niall McGinn scoring in both matches, helping take his goals tally to 16.
Hibs, though, felt they had been the victims of the football equivalent of a mugging in that second game, having pounded Jamie Langfield’s goal throughout the 90 minutes, only for former Celtic winger McGinn to stun them 13 minutes from time with a goal which brought their unbeaten home run to an end.
However, like Fenlon’s players, Aberdeen have struggled to put together a run of good results, their own return to action following the SPL’s winter break being a 3-0 hammering by Terry Butcher’s high-flying Caley. Just how the Dons react to that defeat remains to be seen but Fenlon, for one, is anticipating another close encounter.
He said: “The games between us have been really tight. We should have won the game here and were disappointed with how it turned out at the end of the day.
“However, as I’ve said previously, when you lose a game when you have played really well you can be disappointed for a period but when you reflect on it, look back on the game and analyse it you can take a lot of positives out of it and I think we could do that with that match.
“It was a game we lost but one we felt we should have won, but there’s probably been cases for ourselves this year where we have not played well and won matches. That’s football and you have to be able to deal with it.”