Hibs boss Neil Lennon has urged his players to begin turning up the heat on their Championship title rivals after opening up a six-point lead at the top of the table.
Lennon described his players as “buoyant” after their 8-1 Scottish Cup thrashing of junior outfit Bonnyrigg Rose, but now he’s adamant they have to be ready to “go the hard yards” to secure their target of promotion back to the Premiership after a three-year absence.
And, he admitted, he’s wary of today’s trip to face a rejuvenated Queen of the South at Palmerston Park where, he claimed, the artificial pitch gives Gary Naysmith’s side a slight advantage.
Lennon said: “We’ve been playing well. We had a great win last week and that will have given the players a lot of confidence. But this is a totally different animal. The priority is the league and our focus is on that now. It’s important to keep the foot down, to build the momentum. If we do and win, then we can put pressure on the teams chasing us. I’d rather be in our postion than anyone else’s.”
Lennon has noted that after a run of 12 winless games, the Dumfries club are unbeaten in their last four, including a 3-3 draw away to second-placed Dundee United and victories over both St Mirren and Dumbarton. He said: “It will be a difficult game. Queens have found a bit of form again under Gary. They play good football, they’ve put in some good performances and scored three at United.
“The new manager has come in, given them a bit of a bounce and got them organised. He’s brought in some good players, a blend of experience and vitality and, having watched their last couple of games, I can see they play with an attacking intent.”
Asked what made Palmerston Park such a difficult venue – Hibs drew 0-0 on their last visit in September – Lennon replied: “The pitch. I don’t think it is the greatest of plastic pitches so it gives them a slight advantage. But we have to beat what is in front of us, to earn the right to play, to win games and get out of this division. Palmerston Park is just part of those hard yards.”