Mark Milligan has backed strikers Flo Kamberi and Marc McNulty to get the goals to help Hibs hold on to their newly-acquired place in the Ladbrokes Premiership’s top six.
The pair have scored five times between them in boss Paul Heckingbottom’s first two matches in charge, Kamberi taking his tally for the season to 12 and McNulty making it four in three games since arriving on loan from Reading in Friday night’s 4-2 win over Dundee.
The win propelled Hibs above St Johnstone and into sixth place on goal difference with, admitted Milligan, a huge match between the two teams coming at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday.
But with a Scottish Cup win against Raith meaning Hibs have now won three matches on the trot, Australian veteran Milligan believes momentum is building within the Capital club with the aim being, with just six games to be played before the split, to remain in the top half.
Milligan said: “We had a good week in the build-up. We got a lot of work done on the training pitch and Friday’s win, away from home, was another step in the direction. It is always important, especially when a new coach comes in, that you continue to learn when you are winning, which is a good sign.”
Milligan believes he and his team-mates are finally beginning to show what they are capable of after a miserable run which saw them win just three times in 17 matches.
The 33-year-old midfielder said: “I have been saying that for the last few weeks but the table doesn’t lie. When I look around our changing-room we know we have quality in there and we have to start producing results that reflect that. The only way we do that is by working hard in training and he is giving us a lot of good information and the boys are taking it on board.”
The goals of Kamberi and McNulty will, conceded Milligan, be key to Hibs’ aspirations, the Swiss striker, lambasted by former boss Neil Lennon and his assistant Garry Parker, looking as if he has a new lease of life.
He said: “There is a lot of quality between them and that has really been emphasised since the new boss came in. They are important for us in defence as they are in attack and when they win the ball back it is in good areas.
“They still have a lot to give and they are going to get a better understanding of what we need from them. They are scoring goals and every team needs goals. You have combinations all over the park and it is important that you have a good understanding of the players around you.”
Heckingbottom had his players back in at East Mains barely 12 hours after their win at Dens Park, Milligan highlighting the former Barnsley and Leeds United manager’s eye for detail.
He said: “We’ll get time off but it’s important when we have such a short turnaround that we get in, get our recovery – especially for me with this ageing body – it’s important that you do the right things.
“It is important we stay focused short-term because we have a very good game coming up on Wednesday.
“It is a massive match. We need to get our recovery, and the bare minimum is to show the same energy and commitment levels as we shown over the last couple of weeks.”
“We will have a look at the Dundee game, at what we did well and the things we need to improve on and the other things we need to take into our game.
“We are still trying to move forward and pushing for the top six and we are trying to do it in a way he wants us to.”
McNulty could be facing a charge from the SFA’s compliance officer Clare Whyte after television caught him apparently kicking out at Dundee defender Ryan McGowan as the former Hearts player hauled him to the ground.
McGowan was booked but McNulty escaped punishment from referee John Beaton. Milligan, however, professed to having seen nothing.
“Has he lashed out?” he asked. “I never saw it from where I was, it looked like Gowser had his arms around him. I don’t think Marc has that in him but I never saw it and I don’t know what happened.”
Dundee boss Jim McIntyre also claimed his side should have had a penalty for Milligan holding his countryman McGowan in the opening minutes of the match but the Hibs player said: “There were a couple and in our first corner I am sure a few of us were being held back as well.
“There is contact and away from home I thought it was a decent game from us. They started quite well and that is something we have learned – that when we did settle down and got passing then we ended up causing them problem.
“Our game management could have been better and we could have finished the game a little earlier than we did, but again they are at home and are pushing to try and make something happen.”