‘Hard to be confident’: Journalists’ predictions for Kilmarnock v Hibs
Our online team try to predict the correct result as Hibs travel to Kilmarnock on Saturday for their penultimate game of the 2018/19 season.
Craig Fowler: It’s fascinating how quickly perceptions change in football. Going into last Sunday’s game with Rangers, Hibs were riding a 10-game unbeaten run in the league under new boss Paul Heckingbottom. A 1-0 defeat and their recent run now reads as one victory in five games. An unquestioned positive becomes something of a negative in the space of 90 minutes. The manager will be looking for a reaction from his players as the performance at Ibrox was well below the standard he’s set to this point. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think he’s going to get it. Kilmarnock are gunning for a Europa League place, while Hibs have a number of players who may be distracted by what’s going to occur with regards to their future at the club. Prediction: Kilmarnock win.
Mark Atkinson: Heckingbottom has admitted that Hibs have been “flat” in training this week and I think they’ll come unstuck against a Kilmarnock team still hunting down third place. I can’t see Hibs being as bad as they were when they capitulated at Rugby Park back in December, but with the hosts’ wind in their sails and the motivation of European football, they might just edge it. Potential to be an open, goal-laden game however, especially if Hibs play with the shackles off.
Joel Sked: It is the first sticky patch of Heckingbottom’s reign at Easter Road. Yet, it is testament to his work since his arriving that the downturn in form has been a defeat at Rangers and home draws with Celtic and Hearts. Kilmarnock are desperately looking for three points in their quest for Europa League qualification. They were the better team in a 1-0 win at Tynecastle last weekend but they didn’t play that great. It is all about results rather than performances and it will be a tense afternoon at Rugby Park. Draw.
Anthony Brown: Memories of that abject early-December day when Hibs were praying for abandonment amid floodlight failure as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat away to Kilmarnock make it hard to be particularly confident about an away win, even allowing for the Easter Road side’s notable improvement in the intervening months under Heckingbottom. Hibs also found the going tough in a goalless draw at home to Killie last month and are currently struggling to score goals. A result of some kind is within their capabilities this weekend if they are able to summon their best form collectively, but Kilmarnock, who are in decent form as they chase down third place, will be a tough nut to crack. Prediction: Home win
Neil McGlade: As unlikely a scenario it was that Hibs would have European football to look forward to next season, it will have nevertheless been a disappointment to Heckingbottom and his players that they have fallen just short. Bearing in mind where the club was languishing in the table when the Englishman took over the reins in February, a fifth-place finish - should they achieve it - is a real commendable effort by all those at Easter Road. Kilmarnock are still vying for third place and their highest league finish since 1993 so have a far greater incentive to take maximum points from the match. Hibs turned in a wretched display on their last visit to Rugby Park in December and although I think they’ll put in a better showing this time round, the outcome will remain the same. Prediction: Kilmarnock win.
Patrick McPartlin: Hibs are effectively playing for pride now - and the chance to finish above Hearts for a second consecutive season. After some of the displays earlier this term - not least the meek 3-0 defeat at Rugby Park last year - finishing in the top six full stop can be seen as a sign of progress. Kilmarnock, on the other hand, know they can secure European football by finishing fourth provided Celtic win the Scottish Cup. Do they want to finish as high as possible? Absolutely, and with their battle for third with Aberdeen going down to the wire, Steve Clarke’s charges will be raring to go in Ayrshire tomorrow, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s match at Pittodrie. Despite Heckingbottom admitting to a lack of buzz in training, I’d expect the Yorkshireman to gee up his team to put in a performance. It’ll need strong displays from front to back, but I don’t think a share of the points is that unlikely. Prediction: Score draw
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