Jordon Forster insists Hibs’ appalling home record is not down to a fear of playing at Easter Road.
The Capital club won just five of their 24 home matches in 2013 and so far this year have managed just two victories – against the Premiership’s bottom clubs Hearts and Ross County – in six games, which encompasses their shock Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Raith Rovers.
While manager Terry Butcher conceded it might be easier for his players to star away from home at present, Forster, 20, is adamant the thought of playing at Easter Road carries no worries for him or his team-mates.
The defender said: “People talk about being scared to play at home, being scared to play a football match. It’s a game of football. You have to go out and enjoy yourself and if you’re scared you won’t enjoy yourself.
“If you’re not enjoying football I don’t understand why people would play it. People always talk about the record at Easter Road, but it’s a record because it’s in the past. I think people spend too much time on it. It’s happened, so there’s not a lot we can do about it.
“There is no fear at all going on to play at Easter Road for me personally and I can vouch for the rest of the boys. No-one is scared to play at Easter Road, certainly not.”
Forster accepted, though, that Hibs supporters have become restless, a chorus of boos having resounded around the ground following the 3-1 defeat by Dundee United last weekend. He said: “Results haven’t been good and you can hear the fans after games – they’re entitled to their opinions.
“As a professional football player you need to be big enough and strong enough to take criticism and get on with it. We need to try and be a little bit more brave, to try and get on the ball more. Maybe some of us need to be more brave, to get on the ball and look to pass it more. That’s something we’re working on out on the training pitch. Obviously we want to give the fans something positive to shout about but people are talking about being scared to play at Easter Road – I think it’s nonsense. It’s down to the players to go out on to the pitch and prove it.”
Forster also agreed performances had tailed off recently after the uplift in both displays and results which followed the arrival of Butcher at the beginning of November. Hibs are now battling to attain a top-six finish for the first time in four seasons as they trail St Johnstone by three points with only six games left before the split.
He said: “The performances picked up for seven or eight games and they haven’t been good enough of late. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why because if we knew why we’d stop it. All you can do is work hard to try and get back to those performances. You can’t click your fingers and say ‘I’m going to play this week, we’re going to pass the ball well, score three goals and keep a clean sheet’.
“It’s not as easy as that. But I can vouch for everyone when I say we’re working hard out there to try and get things right and stop conceding as many goals, especially at home.”
Admitting Butcher had been forced to berate his players too often recently for below-par performances, Forster insisted a top-six finish was still very much within Hibs’ grasp.
He said: “Every game is important but the game in Perth against St Johnstone is going to be a big game for us. That’s in three or four games’ time so we’ll be solely focused on Motherwell and if we get the three points it stands us in good stead going into a busy couple of weeks. Right now the position we are in, top six is what we’re aiming for. For me personally, and if you ask all the boys, I’m sure they’ll agree, Hibs is a massive club. With the facilities we’ve got and the supporters, we should be challenging for fourth, third, second, especially with Rangers out of the league.
“But right now the top six is what we’re aiming for.”
While only three points behind Saints, Hibs are just six off second bottom, a position which entails a play-off to maintain top-flight status but, according to Forster, that doesn’t come into the equation as far as Butcher’s players are concerned.
He said: “It’s not a worry. You are always aware of the teams round about you but we’re looking up rather than down. Obviously the performances have not been good enough and people start to question the teams coming up behind us.
“But, as I say, we’re solely focused on today and if we get the three points, which we are aiming to do, it moves us away from them and closer to St Johnstone.”