Lee Johnson not dismissing prospect of Hibs finishing third but insists Hearts remain favourites
Hibs manager Lee Johnson believes finishing third is possible for the Easter Road side – but insists getting a result against Rangers on Wednesday night is the main focus.
A run of seven games without defeat has propelled the Capital club to fourth in the cinch Premiership table, five points behind city rivals Hearts, but Hibs face stern tests in hosting Rangers before travelling to Celtic in their next two matches.
Johnson believes the primary aim has to be sealing a place in the top six when the league splits, but didn’t dismiss the prospect of Hibs managing a best-of-the-rest finish.
“I think it’s possible,” he said, as he previewed the visit of the Light Blues. “Obviously we are not favourites for it, because Hearts are five points ahead of us but we have got to be thinking about the fact we have got them to play again and we have then got the opportunity to nail down a top-six spot and play them again. So that becomes absolutely key.”
Hibs have played Hearts twice in the league so far this season, drawing one and losing at Tynecastle at New Year. The teams meet again before the split but Johnson is hopeful of adding another derby in the final five games of the campaign.
“We’re going to have to beat them and probably we are going to have to go undefeated against them if we do add the extra game post-split, but we are not looking that far ahead at the moment. We are literally just looking at, can we do everything we can to beat Rangers, and then we take the next obstacle which is Celtic and we go from there.”
Johnson believes it would put down a marker if Hibs can get a win on Wednesday.
“It would be a statement win if we got the victory,” he agreed. “We have to aim to get closer to the Old Firm. Celtic are way out ahead, then there’s Rangers, and then there are clubs like ourselves. Performances and consistency are key and I feel we are on a steady trajectory. If we can bridge that gap in a one-off game that shows it can be done. We have a lot to do and individuals have to perform but it is looking good.”