Neil Lennon has admitted he wouldn’t be happy if Hibs were forced to face Rangers at Ibrox for a third time this season – but the head coach insisted it would hold no fears for his players.
The SPFL Premiership is facing a potentially embarrassing scenario if the top six remains the same, a situation which would result in Rangers having played all five of their post-split rivals twice at home.
The Govan club are due two games at home after the split, which means that two sides from Hibs, Hearts, Celtic, Aberdeen or Kilmarnock would face a third visit to Ibrox.
However, Hibs are expecting three of their final five games to be at Easter Road, with placings as they currently stand meaning they’d have visits from Celtic, Rangers and tomorrow’s opponents Kilmarnock, with fixtures away to Hearts and Aberdeen. That outcome would give them an even split of 19 matches home and away over the course of the season.
Hibs have already travelled to Rangers twice on league duty this season, winning 3-2 in August and then 2-1 just a few weeks ago.
Lennon insisted there would be ramifications for all clubs if any of them had to go to Ibrox for a third time, both in terms of the impact it would have on the outcome of the league and their finances.
“We wouldn’t have any fear,” he insisted, “but it wouldn’t be ideal. I would rather play them at home from my own personal point of view at that stage of the season. It could give teams around us an advantage and it would certainly give Rangers an advantage, which is what we don’t want at that stage of the season.
“It could make a massive difference to all of us. It could be important for Rangers if they are going for the title, hypothetically speaking. I wonder what other clubs would make of that as well.”
And Lennon pointed out losing a home match against Rangers would have a financial impact, the Evening News reckoning Hibs could miss out on more than £100,000 in gate receipts alone if they were forced into a third visit to Ibrox.
The Hibs boss said: “It’s one of the games you probably budget for, Celtic, Aberdeen, Hearts, Rangers, the top four teams. You would expect to get a huge crowd and I think it would be unfair for us to miss out on that having earned the right to be there.
“Other clubs would feel the same. But I don’t really care about other clubs. I don’t see why any team should have to go and have to play anywhere three times when you play team four times.
“It’s just the way the fixtures come out sometimes, I suppose. If we do, we’ll have to suck it up and get on with it.”
Meanwhile, Lennon admitted he doesn’t think Hibs will go into tomorrow’s game against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park as favourites, even although the Capital side have won four of their last five matches and currently sit 12 points ahead of the Ayrshire outfit.
Describing Kilmarnock as “the form team”, he said: “It’s another tough ask for us off the back of two very tough games. It’s a great challenge and one we are looking forward to, but we’ll have to be at our best, not only with conditions on the pitch, but the way Kilmarnock are playing.
“The other thing they have shown is a huge amount of character, but we will go there and try to impose our game and win if we can.”