Anthony Stokes has insisted Hibs have every right to fancy themselves in tomorrow night’s derby at Tynecastle as they look to end the year with three wins on the bounce.
The Easter Road striker conceded momentum seemed to have swung towards Capital rivals Hearts in the past couple of weeks as Craig Levein’s players narrowed the gap between the clubs.
However, victory over Ross County – only their second in seven matches – stretched Hibs’ advantage to five points as Hearts were held to a no-scoring draw by St Johnstone. With Rangers and Aberdeen both losing, Stokes admitted he and his team-mates are eyeing a grandstand finish to 2017. Stokes took his tally for the season into double figures as he cancelled out Craig Curran’s early opener for the Staggies before teenager Oli Shaw wrapped up a 2-1 win but he revealed he’s looking to add at least another two or three goals in this week’s games against Hearts and Kilmarnock.
“I could probably have had a couple more,” he said of his ten goals so far. “You are never happy, you always look back and think you could have had more. We’ve two games left and, if I finish the year with 12 or 13, something like that, I will be happy.
“The target is always over twenty goals. I just want to score as many as I can.”
When it was suggested to him that to make his year-end target would probably require him scoring in Gorgie, he replied: “That’s the plan.
“When I was here [at Hibs] the first time, we were on the end of a couple of defeats but the last while has been mainly Hibs. We have to fancy ourselves – the league does not lie.
“Our form has been good. We had a little blip at Aberdeen but you need to put it out of your mind as a lot changes in football in a week.
“You look at our performance against Ross County – a couple of results going with us and it looks a lot better.”
Admitting that derbies are always hard-fought affairs with, invariably, little free-flowing football, Stokes added: “They are mostly about desire but the better players, nine times out of ten, come out on top and I fancy our squad. I really do.”
And 29-year-old Stokes insisted he’s relishing the trip across the city even although he knows he’ll be given the most hostile of receptions by home fans.
He said: “These are the games you look for in the fixture list and think ‘that will be a good one’. At this time of year, the fans will be up for it, so will we. I have always enjoyed playing there, the fans are quite close to you which creates a great atmosphere. I get pelters but I do not mind. For me, it’s a ground I’ve always enjoyed playing at.”
Stokes recognised the importance of the final two games of the year, adding: “I think we have put ourselves in a great position. Last week was disappointing but you move on. If we can win the derby and finish off with a good result against Kilmarnock then the start of 2018 will be very bright for us.”