Hibs can't treat games against Celtic and Rangers as 'free hits', insists Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson is refusing to treat matches against Celtic and Rangers as ‘free hits’ – because he is desperate to prove to supporters that Hibs can close the gap on the Glasgow pair.
In five league matches against the Old Firm teams, Hibs have scored five but conceded 19, losing four and drawing one. After losing 6-1 to Celtic in October, Hibs endured a rotten run of form, losing five of the following six matches and Johnson is keen to avoid a recurrence. The Easter Road boss is now firmly focused on bettering his side’s performance against ‘higher opposition’ after branding them ‘naive’ against the Light Blues.
Speaking after the 4-1 defeat by Rangers Johnson said it was ‘really difficult’ to think of matches against Celtic and Rangers as ‘free hits’.
“It is really difficult for me, as the type of person I am to think like that. I have got to be careful because I’m not sure whether I knocked the boys’ confidence after the 6-1 at Parkhead. We went on a bit of a bad run after that and you are still getting to know your players all the time,” he continued.
"But, within me, I’m still desperate to show off what Hibs are about. When we play well, we have running power and threats and guile and control and compactness in and out of possession. I come back to teams I have managed before that have always competed well against higher opposition, in FA Cups etc.
"So, I won't lie, it is niggling away at me a little but because I am desperate to prove to ourselves and I’m desperate to prove to the fans that we can infiltrate in one-off games and get closer to these guys.”
Hibs travel to Celtic a week on Saturday before the international break pauses domestic football until April, when Hibs host Motherwell on April 1. They then have a slightly extended break before the trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United on Sunday April 9. Johnson’s side are back at home for another Edinburgh derby on April 15 before taking on St Johnstone in Perth in the final game before the cinch Premiership split.