Terry Butcher today warned his Hibs stars they’ll have to better the performance which saw them beat Kilmarnock 3-0 if they are to clock up a third successive win over the Rugby Park outfit.
The display, in the final Scottish Premiership game of 2013, was judged by many to have been the Easter Road side’s best of the season and, Butcher revealed, was the focal point of stand-in captain Michael Nelson’s dressing-room rallying call ahead of last weekend’s victory over Ross County which ended a five-game winless run for the Capital club.
But while the Ayrshire side have won just one of their last six matches, Butcher believes the return of Finnish internationalist Alexei Eremenko coupled to the threat posed by striker Kris Boyd has made Killie even more dangerous opponents.
And although a 3-0 win, on the face of it, looks a comfortable scoreline, Butcher said: “It was a game that was on a knife edge for spells. We were 1-0 up but Killie enjoyed a lot of the ball until late on when we managed to get two more goals to get us over the line.
“I know it sounds a bit funny, we won 3-0 and played really well but while we obviously want to try to win the game I think we’ll have to play better than we did that day.
“Killie are a difficult team to play against but an exciting side to watch. They are moulding themselves into a very strong, attacking force and having two attackers [Johnston and Sandy Clark] as manager and coach helps, they understand what it takes to score goals and what needs to be done. Boyd is quality, a terrific leader of the line who can score goals out of the blue, from 20 or 30 yards or from 20 or 30 inches because he is there where it matters. Eremenko can see things that are extra-ordinary, he can pass the ball with either foot, long or short and his peripheral vision is excellent.
“If we can nullify those two then we will go a long way to doing well ourselves. But Michael Nelson in particular knows about Boyd from his time with Kilmarnock and I refer back to the 3-0 game when he kept Kris pretty quite and our ambition will be to do just that again.”
Butcher’s squad have had their confidence renewed not just by their win over Ross County but the performance they produced on the day, epitomised, he insisted, by the play of Tom Taiwo, the midfielder enjoying a renaissance in recent weeks when question marks had been raised over his long-term future at Easter Road.
He said: “Tom has been a revelation, he really has. He’s led by example. His attitude, commitment, desire and workrate have been fantastic. He enjoys ratting about people, getting stuck in and winning the ball.”
Meanwhile, Hibs striker Jason Cummings has been named in the Scotland Under-21 squad for the friendly against Switzerland at Livingston’s Energy Asset Arena on March 5, kick-off 2pm.