Neil Lennon has challenged Hibs to ensure they capitalise on their only home league game in a near-two-month window by defeating Motherwell on Saturday.
This weekend will be the only time they play a Premiership fixture at Easter Road between August 19, when Hamilton Accies visited, and October 14, when they welcome Aberdeen. During this period, Hibs will have faced four away games – at Dundee, St Johnstone, Ross County and Celtic.
The manager expressed bewilderment at this state of affairs, but is well aware of the importance of making home advantage count against Stephen Robinson’s in-form team after taking just two points from their past three matches.
“I don’t know what way the fixture list works, but from Dundee to Celtic, we’ll have had four away games out of five,” he said. “I don’t know how that works out. It’s nice to have a home game, but we’ll need to maximise it.
“Motherwell have done well, they’re a point ahead of us. I watched them against Rangers and they were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. They’ve beaten Hearts and Kilmarnock since then. They’re a big physical team, and uncompromising as well, but they can play a bit when they need to do so. It’ll be another challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it.”
Saturday’s match pits Lennon against one of his former Northern Ireland team-mates for the second match running. After drawing 1-1 with Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone last weekend, he is looking forward to locking horns with 42-year-old Robinson, whom he played alongside for his national team in the late 1990s and early Noughties.
“Stephen was playing for Bournemouth when we played together and I was at Leicester and then at Celtic at that time,” said Lennon. “I’ve known him a long time – he was a very good footballer.
“As a manager he’s done his apprenticeship. He had his stint at Oldham, he’s done really well with the Under-21s at Northern Ireland, and he seems to have fitted in really well at Motherwell. They’ve had a very good start.”
Lennon has been encouraged by his own team’s start, although he feels they should be a few points better off after drawing their last two games, away to Dundee and St Johnstone, despite being widely viewed as the better team on both occasions. The manager is confident Hibs will soon return to winning ways.
“I just hope we can maintain the quality of performance we’ve shown predominantly over the season so far,” said Lennon. “I’ve been delighted with the football we’ve played. If we keep playing the way we’re playing we’re going to win games. But you’ll find that we might not play as well as we have done in the last two games and end up winning some games. I’m really happy with the level of performance and the quality of the chances we’re creating. I can’t ask any more of the team at the moment.”