Danny Swanson admits Hibs will have to overcome a tough test if they are to extend their impressive recent Edinburgh derby record against resurgent Hearts next week.
The Easter Road side are unbeaten in their last eight meetings with their city rivals and until last weekend would have been viewed as favourites to come away with a victory from their trip to Gorgie in eight days’ time.
However, Hearts’ recent improvement, and in particular their sensational 4-0 destruction of champions Celtic on Sunday, allied to the fragility Hibs displayed in their 4-1 defeat away to Aberdeen on Saturday, has altered the landscape ahead of next Wednesday’s eagerly-awaited showdown at Tynecastle. Swanson, who had a short spell as a Hearts player two seasons ago, isn’t surprised to see the Jambos making positive strides under his former Dundee United manager Craig Levein. The 30-year-old attacking midfielder knows Hibs will have to be at their most resilient to emerge from the lions’ den with a positive result.
“After watching Hearts against Celtic, it’s going to be a really difficult game next week,” Swanson told the Evening News. “I was surprised at how well they played. The little boy (Harry) Cochrane looks some player - he was phenomenal.
“I thought Craig would turn it round, to be honest, and it looks like he’s starting to. I think they’ll be a lot harder to beat now, especially at Tynecastle. I’d take a 1-0 win right now because it will be extremely difficult. They’ll be very fired up for it and they’ll feel that if they can beat Celtic, they can beat anybody in the league. But we’re confident as well. We’ve got some top players so we’ve just got to deal with the occasion and hopefully come away with a win.”
Fifth-place Hearts were 11 points behind Hibs less than a fortnight ago, but they have now chopped the deficit to just three points after winning their last three matches. Goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin declared prior to Sunday’s victory over Celtic that the Tynecastle side were intent on overtaking Hibs and moving into fourth place in the Premiership. Depending on results this weekend, when Hibs host Ross County and Hearts head to St Johnstone, that scenario could come to pass at some point over the next eight days. Swanson insists Hibs are up for the challenge of remaining ahead of their city rivals.
“We want to finish above Hearts,” he stated. “There’s a long way to go but we’re in a great position. We’re obviously ahead of them just now. The fact the two teams are quite close in the league will put an extra bit of fire on the game next week. We’re looking forward to it.”
Swanson is set to feature for Hibs’ development team away to St Mirren today (6pm at Paisley 2021 Stadium) after returning to the match-day squad on Saturday following a two-month lay-off with a torn knee ligament. Having sustained his injury on the eve of the last derby in October, Swanson is eager to force his way into contention for a place in the team for the trip to Tynecastle. “It’s a game I’ve always wanted to play in, so hopefully I’m involved,” he said.
Swanson watched on helplessly from the subs’ bench as Hibs crashed to their first away defeat in more than nine months at Pittodrie. He is confident the chastening 4-1 loss won’t adversely effect his team’s hitherto promising campaign. “I’d like to think the Aberdeen game was just a one-off,” he said. “It wasn’t really us. We just crumbled after the first goal, which was a bit of a shock, to be honest. Nothing really happened for us, which was surprising considering how good we were in the game before (against Rangers). Hopefully it’ll not happen again.”