Neil Lennon believes Hibs can put themselves in a “really good position” for a post-split push if they can win their next three games, starting with today’s visit from troubled Partick Thistle.
The Easter Road side currently sit fourth in the Ladbrokes Premiership, six points behind Rangers in second but with a game in hand – Tuesday night’s rearranged match with Hamilton – and they will also face basement team Ross County before their final tranche of top-six fixtures is announced.
Lennon knows his players will go into this run of three games in seven days as favourites given the respective positions of the clubs involved and the fact his own side are six matches unbeaten.
But he is equally aware of the dangers presented by those teams embroiled in, or fighting to avoid, a relegation tussle while believing the Edinburgh outfit can handle such threats.
He said: “Each club is fighting for their lives and that is a dangerous animal. If we take our foot off the gas then we will get punished. Every game is competitive and we will rightly go into them as favourites on recent form. We deserve that tag and it won’t faze us.
“We should treat them the same way as we would if we were playing against Celtic, Hearts or Rangers. They are just as important as the ones after the split. It can put us in a really good position.
“The mentality of the team is very good and we have handled the big games very well–- the derbies, the games in Glasgow – and we have played some great football. Our foot is to the floor which is pleasing and a really good sign.”
Hibs, however, will got into the matches against Partick and Hamilton without the influential figure of John McGinn because of suspension while a question mark remains over his fellow midfielder Dylan McGeough who has been nursing a groin injury which forced him to pull out of Scotland’s friendlies against Costa Rica and Peru.
Lennon will make a late decision on McGeouch who he believes will be fit for Tuesday if he fails to make today’s game although his concerns in that area – where Vykintas Slivka and Brandon Barker have been missing for a few weeks through injury – have been eased a little by the news that Marvin Bartley has recovered from a virus.
He said: “Marvin had it over the weekend and lost a bit of weight but he’s starting to rejuvenate himself again and has trained fine.”
Lennon will have to make another enforced change with Ofir Marciano also suspended, the Israeli internationalist having been sent off early in Hibs’ last match against St Johnstone, his handling of the ball outside his penalty area giving Cammy Bell an unexpected debut.
Bell, signed on transfer-deadline day, will again deputise with Lennon describing having the former Kilmarnock, Rangers and Dundee United man as Marciano’s understudy as “a great comfort for me”. He added: “Cammy’s performance at McDiarmid Park was outstanding. This move has been good for him mentally and physically, it’s got his juices flowing again.
“He is a top goalkeeper and he will put pressure on Ofir which is exactly what we want.”