David Gray insists Hibs can use their formidable run of upcoming fixtures to remind their doubters that they are still a force to be reckoned with in Scottish football.
The Easter Road side have slipped to eighth in the Premiership after winning only one of their last eight fixtures, but they remain within eight points of second place.
Following Saturday’s morale-boosting victory away to Hamilton, Hibs kick off a blockbuster sequence of year-ending fixtures when they welcome league leaders Celtic to Easter Road this Sunday. They then face Rangers home and away either side of a match against Livingston before completing their December schedule at home to Hearts. Gray is adamant his team can take a good share of points from those fixtures and hoist themselves back into the top half of the table before the winter break.
“The objective has never changed,” said the captain. “We’ve had a bad run of results there but we need to remember we don’t become a bad team overnight. We started the season really well. The last time we played Celtic (in October) we had the chance to go top of the league so we’re not too far away.
“A little run of results can really catapult us up the table. We’re definitely looking up the way. First and foremost, we’re looking to get back into the top six and then once we do that we can then start looking to get back into the top four again and take it from there. We can’t look beyond the run of fixtures coming up though. They’re going to be difficult but we’re more than capable of putting a run together.
“Even though we’re eighth, we’re still within striking distance of the teams at the top which shows how tight the league is this season. Everyone is capable of beating everyone on their day so there’s no reason we can’t put a wee run together. There are so many games to play this month that things could look very different by the time the winter break comes along.”
Gray is buoyed by the knowledge that four of Hibs’ next five games are at home. “Our home form previously was outstanding,” he said. “Before this wee bad run, I think our home form was one of the best in the country this calendar year, so we need to get back to that and get the belief going again.”
Celtic failed to win on their two visits to Easter Road last season and the champions have generally found Neil Lennon’s team a tough nut to crack since they returned to the Premiership a year and a half ago. “We know what a test Celtic are going to be,” said Gray. “They have dominated Scottish football for a number of years and Sunday will be tough - but I also know that, coming to Easter Road, they’ll be in for a game. We have always done well against them there and the result at the weekend gives us a little bit of confidence and takes some of the pressure off, in terms of getting a win to stop the rot.
“They always tend to be good games against Celtic. I have actually been able to watch them as I wasn’t playing in many of them, which is frustrating for myself, and they are always enjoyable to watch. We have been in the game and I’m pretty sure Celtic will be preparing for a real challenge. We need to make sure we don’t disappoint them!”