Robbie Stockdale has insisted Hibs’ focus is not ending the season above Capital rivals Hearts – but catching Kilmarnock in the race for a possible Europa League place.
The Easter Road side go into tomorrow’s final derby of the season three points ahead of Craig Levein’s team buoyed not only by a run of nine matches undefeated but having won for the first time in six years at Tynecastle only a few weeks ago.
But, revealed the assistant coach, as delighted as he and boss Paul Heckingbottom were to win that match – the final game before the split – it was quickly forgotten as their attention immediately focused on the next match. He did, however, admit they’d love to enjoy a repeat of that day in Gorgie, saying: “You can see what it means to people, you only have to look at the last game to know that. We’re expecting exactly the same kind of atmosphere this time, although obviously more in our favour. It will be electric. We really want to excite our fans and send them home happy again.”
Stockdale revealed the build up to the previous derby had been “a real eye opener” to both him and Heckingbottom, the sole topic of conversation wherever they went in the two weeks preceding the match.
And, he insisted, no-one should try to play it down although he added: “The last derby is gone now. We didn’t dwell on it, just enjoyed it for what it was and then, the very next day, focused on the next game. I won’t lie to you and say we were basking in the victory for days and days after it. We weren’t. As soon as the final whistle went we moved on to thinking about the next week’s training.”
Adamant that talk of “bragging rights” should be left to the fans, Stockdale said: “We enjoy every victory but our focus is on the next bit. We work consistently, every week, on what we want to do, the game plan we have, the style of play.
“Every team you play against will cause you problems. What we’ve got to do is try to be true to our style of play. If you are talking about matching them up physically, we can’t to that.
“So we’ve got to find a different way to win. We’ve managed to do that once. Our job is to do it again.”
Having achieved their first objective of ensuring a top-six finish, Stockdale insisted he and Heckingbottom are now focused on moving higher. He said: “It’s not about being above Hearts for us, it’s about catching the team in front of us.
“We are outsiders in that chase but while it’s still on we’ll strive to do it. If we don’t pick up the points and carry on winning, then it won’t happen.
“So that’s something to look back at when the season finishes. Momentum has been built, but we are just one defeat from everyone saying the opposite.”