Hibs can hit ground running in hectic spell, says Steven Whittaker

Steven Whittaker, right, prepares for this afternoon's match against Dundee alongside the fit-again Paul Hanlon. Pic: SNS
Steven Whittaker, right, prepares for this afternoon's match against Dundee alongside the fit-again Paul Hanlon. Pic: SNS
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Steven Whittaker believes Hibs finally have the chance to build momentum as they face a testing programme of nine matches before the end of the year, starting with today’s visit from basement outfit Dundee.

A run of four games without a win or a goal in which just one point was gained saw Neil Lennon’s players slip from second to eighth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, those fixtures taking place over a period when their season was interrupted by international breaks and the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

Now Hibs have to contend with a concentrated schedule but one which Whittaker feels can help him and his team-mates reposition themselves in the league.

“It’s a competitive league, that’s been stressed by the manager. We’re sitting in eighth but with a couple of good results we’ll be right back up there and in the thick of it. That’s our aim over these coming fixtures and then going into December it’ll get a lot busier with a lot more games and a lot more points to play for, so we’re hoping to be in a much better place once the winter break comes.

“Obviously we’re off the back of a couple of disappointing results. There were games lost on very small margins and games that could have gone either way.

“They’ve been tough games but ones that we’ve been competitive in and ones we wanted to take points from. The games themselves, there wasn’t much in them at all.

“St Johnstone was a last minute set play and we were disappointed not to take something from that one as well. There’s just little bits here and there that we can brush up on.

“We’re still creating chances so hopefully we can start taking a few of them and get some points on the board.”

Whittaker admitted the enforced weekends of inactivity hadn’t helped Hibs’ cause nor had the injury problems Lennon had to contend with, skipper David Gray, central defender Paul Hanlon and on-loan Manchester City winger Thomas Agyepong having been sidelined for a number of weeks.

He said: “For the team itself you want to play week in, week out, get into that rhythm and get wins. With the international breaks, which have been every month, it’s a bit stop-start but it’s part of the game. Every team has to deal with that in their own way and we’ll do the same.

The current injuries and previous problems experienced by the likes of Darren McGregor, Flo Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren have all tested the depth of Lennon’s squad but, insisted Whittaker, he does have sufficient numbers to cope with what lies ahead.

The 34-year-old added: “We think we’ve got a decent enough squad. We’ve got a few guys coming back from injury now which is going to help. We feel like the bench and they guys that maybe aren’t getting stripped are more than capable of coming in and doing the job.

“We think we’re in a good place and it’s just about getting a few more better performances than we’ve had in the last few games and get some momentum going.”

Whittaker agreed there is an inherent danger at any time when facing the league’s bottom side with Dundee arriving in Edinburgh still looking for their first win under new boss Jim McIntyre, and with former Hibs striker Kenny Miller an obvious threat.

He said: “There’s good quality through the league. We’re at home, we want to build a good home record which we’ve done over the last couple of seasons. We want to keep that going no matter who comes.

“They’re going to give us a tough game and we know if we’re not quite on it we might not get the result that we want.

“Kenny’s a great pro, still doing a great job and he’s one we’ll need to be wary of.”