Fraser Fyvie today claimed the fact Rangers remain favourites to lift the Championship title puts all the pressure on the Ibrox club going into Monday’s showdown.
While Mark Warburton’s side have faltered recently – picking up just eight points from their last six games since being defeated by Hibs at Easter Road – Fyvie and his team-mates have built a run of 17 matches unbeaten to haul themselves level at the top of the table.
Nevertheless, the Capital club’s credentials continue to be dismissed by many outwith the confines of Hibs’ East Mains training centre, a scenario that doesn’t bother the midfielder in the slightest.
He said: “Everyone expects them to win the league so I would probably say the pressure is more on them because we’re not expected to do so. They kind of have to win the league, we just want to get as close as we can and we will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
“We know what our aims are, what we want to do as a team, a squad and a club and I think we are all striving towards that.”
Fyvie’s second game in green and white following his surprise arrival from Wigan Athletic almost a year ago was at Ibrox, the former Aberdeen player stepping off the bench to supply the pass for Lewis Stevenson to clinch a 2-0 victory for Alan Stubbs’ side.
Now, like then, Fyvie believes he and his team-mates are brimming with confidence, Dominique Malonga’s last-gasp winner against Queen of the South last weekend only adding to the feelgood factor and the belief they can go to Ibrox and take top spot for themselves.
The last time Hibs faced Rangers they knew defeat would leave them 11 points behind the Glasgow outfit, a deficit said my many to be too great to overhaul. But victory that day and a relentless pursuit of points since has turned up the heat on Mark Warburton’s players.
Fyvie said: “When I came in the boys had been on a very good run, one similar to our current run. We went there with a lot of confidence and I think it’s exactly the same this time and we’ll be going there looking to win.
“It’s a tough place to go to, it will be a sell-out and their fans will be like a 12th man for them although I am sure our support will also make themselves heard on the day. But it’s how you perform. Both teams will be looking to win, both managers have set out the targets they want.
“I’ve obviously only played under Alan Stubbs, but Mark Warburton, from what I have seen and heard, is also a very good manager. Rangers have had a dip in form but they are at home, they are Rangers, they are the ones that are favourites to win the league and are probably favourites going into this match.
“They’ll be confident being at home but I’ve always said we just concentrate on ourselves, only we can determine what results we get and if we keep getting results having not played well as has been the case in the past couple of weeks, then that’s what we have to do. Come Monday if we put in a bad performance but win I’d take that all day long.”
Scoring in added-on-time against Falkirk to salvage a point after going down to nine men – John McGinn sent off and then Lewis Stevenson suffering a head injury after all three substitutes had been used – and repeating the trick as Malonga sank Queens, has displayed a resilience which hasn’t been associated with Hibs in recent seasons.
But Fyvie said: “I think we have shown in the last couple of game we will fight to the death. We’ve got a great squad, lots of strikers, midfielders and defenders. The gaffer has added to the squad and it’s a case of if one goes out, another comes in. I was out for six weeks, so was James Keatings, Dylan McGeouch and Marvin Bartley have been missing for the past couple of weeks but the gaffer has a lot of trust in whoever he plays, and when everyone is fit it’s great for the squad.”
Fyvie agreed discipline will be key to Hibs’ hopes on Monday, not just in terms of keeping tempers in check in what is sure to be a tense affair but in sticking to the game plan. To that end Fyvie will have a vital role to perform, the 22-year-old playing a deeper role as McGinn and Liam Henderson are given free rein to get forward.
He said: “That’s where the manager is playing me. I’ve adjusted the best I can to where I am playing which seems to be a bit deeper, but I am enjoying it. As long as I am playing I am happy, it doesn’t bother me, deep or one forward.
“Communication is essential. The boys at the back organise from behind while John and Liam are two young boys – although I am not much older – so I am pulling them in, telling them where I want them on the pitch. The gaffer is always on at us to talk and obviously it helps if someone is telling you when you have time on the ball, to have a look, to take a touch.
“It will be important at Ibrox to have that and to retain the ball and make the most of it when we have it. When we get it we want to score goals and we have goalscorers in our team, Jason Dummings, Dom, Henri Anier coming off the bench, Keats, Marvin Boyle and others who can add goals.”
And Fyvie insisted that regardless of the final scoreline on Monday, it was important to remember there’s still half a season to play.
He said: “It won’t determine the rest of the season, win, lose or draw. The likes of Alloa, Livingston, Morton, Dumbarton and so on are all tough places to go. These teams will test you, they won’t let you walk over them. They know when the play us, Rangers or Falkirk they have to play well.
“Queens were hard to beat last weekend, they had a game plan, their tactics were good. But winning that game 1-0 or going to Alloa and winning 1-0 as we did just the other week is just as important as going to Ibrox and winning.”