Lewis Stevenson today admitted Hibs have “more than a fight” on their hands to take second place in the Championship table after crashing to a fourth successive league defeat.
The Easter Road club’s hopes of mounting a serious title challenge were trashed as they lost three times in a week, going down to Morton, Dumbarton and Queen of the South.
Alan Stubbs’ side did, however, retain the belief they could finish runners-up to Rangers and so avoid two extra and unwanted matches in the promotion play-offs, the Capital club already facing a gruelling schedule next month during which they’ll play eight league games plus their Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United.
And they’ll head into that hectic programme trailing Falkirk, who currently hold second spot, by six points albeit they have two games in hand after losing 2-1 away to Raith Rovers.
But while admitting Hibs have suffered a traumatic change in fortunes, Stevenson revealed he believes the warning signs had been there since the turn of the year.
Adamant that he and his team-mates need to show the character displayed as they bounced back from the bitter disappointment of losing the League Cup final to put Inverness Caley out of the Scottish Cup a few days later, the defender said: “Since Christmas, although we were getting the results, I don’t think we’ve been playing particularly well and we need to get out of it quickly.
“We’re still aiming to finish second – but we have more than a fight on our hands. We showed a lot of character to come back and win in Inverness and we need that for the rest of the season.”
Stevenson rejected the suggestion Stubbs’ players were suffering a loss of confidence, but admitted the break offered by the international programme had probably come just at the right time, with Hibs not in action again until they travel to face St Mirren a week on Saturday.
The 27-year-old said: “The way things are going, I think we need a break. We won at Inverness but the performance was not great and something needs to change.
“We need to have a look at ourselves and do our best to come back strong. We’ve got an intense run of games coming.
“The league is our priority and we need to focus on that. The break will give us a chance to recharge our batteries as we’ve had a lot of games recently. We’ve got a good team spirit, but sometimes you just need that wee break from things.
“We’ve been in every day for the past three weeks and I think no matter what job you do it is tough going to your work every day. We’ll have a few days off, be able to clear our heads, rest our bodies and hopefully came back stronger.”
The break will also give injury victims Paul Hanlon, Fraser Fyvie, Dylan McGeouch and Dan Carmichael the opportunity to return to full fitness for that final push.
Stevenson said: “The boys coming back will make competition for places stronger and the gaffer has said no-one is safe after Saturday.”