Marvin Bartley has claimed Hibs are ready to chase down city rivals Hearts, having closed the gap to the “team that he thought had won the league earlier in the season” to just two points.
Goals from Marc McNulty and skipper David Gray earned the Easter Road side a 2-0 victory over Motherwell, a win which appears to have all but secured a place in the Premiership’s top six for Paul Heckingbottom’s side.
But having learned of Hearts’ surprise defeat by Hamilton only minutes after making it five league games without defeat and 13 points out of 15 since Heckingbottom took over from Neil Lennon, Bartley insisted they are intent on going even higher.
He said: “You chase the team above you and it just happens to be Hearts. They lost to Hamilton so we are closing the gap on them. There are enough games for us to catch them and go beyond them, so that’s our next aim.
“I thought they had won the league earlier in the season, the amount of messages I was getting from their fans, so it’s quite surprising that we are only two points behind them. That’s interesting, isn’t it?
“You can’t really get too excited until all the games are gone or you are mathematically too far ahead of another team. Maybe that shows the mindset of some people to think, ‘we’ve had a good start, they haven’t, so we’re miles ahead of them’. Now, we’re two points behind. We’ll see what happens but that is our next aim – to go ahead of them.”
Although Hibs endured that miserable run of just two league wins in 14 matches which sent them spiralling down the table, Bartley was adamant no-one at Easter Road had lost the faith, saying: “We have never been negative.
“We have always known what we could do. We are on a good run at the moment. You never get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. We believe in ourselves as a squad and as a club and we always think we are going in the right direction. I think we are showing that on the pitch.”
And that, he said, was underlined by the win over Motherwell, a side with just one defeat in eight games and only two points behind Hibs before they met at the weekend.
He said: “It was a brilliant win. We knew before the game that if we won we would be five points ahead of them. The lads were brilliant. They dug in deep at the end to keep a clean sheet. There were people throwing their bodies on the line. We were really delighted to get the win.
“But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and then next minute we have slipped up, finished seventh and it’s like ‘what happened?’
“We go to Livingston after the international break. It’s another big game, but we are in a healthy position at the moment.”
Everyone, however, is well aware that the final game before the split is the third Edinburgh derby of the season, a chance for Heckingbottom to further enhance his growing standing with the Hibs support.
Bartley said: “The first thing the manager said was that he wanted to be in the top six. That’s his aim. He very much puts building blocks in place. The first step is to be in the top six and then it’s always to chase the team above you.
“That’s the way he looks at it. That’s the mindset we have at the moment. When we do finish above them, I’m sure he will get a pat on the back and maybe a pint.”