Hibs boss Neil Lennon has warned his players their 13-day break between matches will be anything but a holiday.
Having gone three points clear at the top of the table with a 4-0 victory over Queen of the South, the Easter Road side aren’t back in action until they face their closest rivals Dundee United at Tannadice on Friday week, idle this weekend as most Championship teams are involved in the Scottish Cup.
But other than allowing his squad this Saturday and Sunday off, Lennon is determined it will be business as usual as they prepare for the clash on Tayside.
“They are going to work hard,” he insisted, “I don’t see the need to give them extra time off. And, in any case, some players do not like having too much time off. We’ll have a normal week, probably give them the weekend off and then begin to prepare for United.”
Lennon conceded the match against the side seen as the biggest threat to their hopes of the title and the one automatic promotion place will be a “big test” for Hibs, Ray McKinnon’s players having won five of their last six league matches before being held to a goalless draw away to Morton.
However, while declaring the demolition of Queens as one of the best performances he’s seen since moving into management, Lennon has detected a burning desire within his squad, underlined, he claimed, not only by the quality of their play when in possession but their willingness to reclaim the ball when it is lost.
He said: “We’ve been very good out of possession. We work hard on getting the ball back quickly and there’s a hunger to do that. It’s something we are trying to improve all the time. I have really good boys in there and they are really starting to come to the boil which augurs well for the rest of the season.
“United will be a big test for us, but we will be going into that game with a lot of confidence because I couldn’t have asked for a better performance than I got at the weekend.”
Lennon will continue to monitor the fitness of John McGinn who he has already revealed will need surgery on an ankle injury which will sideline him for up to eight weeks, the obvious hope being the 22-year-old’s operation can be held off until after the trip to Tayside. With victory against Queens assured, McGinn was taken off with 22 minutes remaining, a brief respite which his manager hopes will help ensure his availability for that game at least although he conceded the player himself probably wanted the operation “as soon as possible”.
Hibs’ midfield problems were not helped when Fraser Fyvie limped off on Saturday with half-an-hour to play – replaced by the fit-again Dylan McGeouch – but Lennon believes he’ll be ready next time round. He said: “Fraser has had an on-going slight groin problem. I think he stubbed the ground a bit and had a reaction. Hopefully with the break he’ll be all right.”