Forget Celtic and Aberdeen....the real test will come in the shape of Accies, Ross County and Livingston
As he punched the air in delight as goalkeeper Chris Maxwell ensured Hibs' passage into the Betfred Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night, Paul Heckingbottom took a moment to take stock of what it felt like to taste victory once again.
The relief was tangible for all those affiliated with the Easter Road club, a mad dash towards Englishman Maxwell to join in the jubilant celebrations with the 727 Hibs supporters who had travelled to Ayrshire with little or no expectation at seeing their side progress to the penultimate round of the competition. Heckingbottom and his players revelled in the applause from those who had booed the team off on numerous occasions these past few weeks. Suddenly all felt good again.
Despite the euphoria and the prospect of a trip to Hampden in November, a section of the Easter Road support remains unconvinced by the Yorkshireman, and continue to call for his removal. Although Wednesday’s triumph may provide Hibs with a much-needed lift, the harsh reality is that the Leith outfit remain second bottom of the Scottish Premiership and without a league win since the opening day. And with Celtic next up tomorrow, followed by next weekend’s trip to Aberdeen, there's every chance Hibs' current league position won't read much better by the time the next international break comes around in a fortnight's time.
Let's be blunt, Hibs have a mammoth task on their hands if they are to topple Celtic this weekend. Neil Lennon’s men have so much strength in depth that not even a vibrant Rangers side could see them off in their own backyard earlier this month. Aberdeen aren’t the same force under Derek McInnes this season but Pittodrie is never an easy venue for any visiting side looking to pick up points. That's not to say Hibs are incapable of grinding out a result but taking anything from the next two games should be seen as a bonus.
The crunch time will come for Heckingbottom and Hibs in the three matches that follow their trip to the Granite City. After Scotland’s double header against Russia and San Marino next month, the Hibees visit Hamilton before welcoming both Ross County and Livingston to Easter Road before October is out.
Is it unrealistic to target nine points? Under current form that might prove a tall order. However, if Heckingbottom is to keep himself out of the firing line, not to mention an opportunity to get the supporters back on side, then three consecutive victories must be the aim.
The Hibs head coach isn't that naive to assume the midweek victory can offer him a clean slate. He has bridges to build on that front. But points are precious and Hibs must now look to use their success at Rugby Park as a launchpad.