Everyone at Easter Road is gearing up for what promises to be an exciting end to the season, Neil Lennon’s team looking to mark their return to the Ladbrokes Premiership by clinching second place.
It would, undoubtedly, be a remarkable achievement, particularly given the bulk of Lennon’s side consists of players who were spending a third season in the Championship only a year ago.
However, while being as determined as anyone to ensure the final five games end with Hibs becoming the “best of the rest”, 20-year-old striker Oli Shaw has his eyes firmly fixed on two pieces of silverware.
The youngster played his part in keeping Hibs very much in touch with Rangers and Aberdeen as he stepped off the bench to claim what could prove to be a vital equaliser against relegation-threatened Ross County. But he is also an important figure in their Under-20 side, his goals helping to take Hibs to the top of the SPFL Development League, the youngsters tightening their grip on the title with a 2-1 victory over Falkirk last night and they also have Thursday’s rearranged SFA Youth Cup semi-final against Celtic to look forward to.
“It’s going to be a massive end to the season,” he admitted. “Obviously I am hoping to be involved with the first team throughout the run-in but the Under-20s are my group and it would be a big achievement if we can win the league and get past Celtic to play Aberdeen in the cup final at Hampden.”
The first team does, of course, take precedent over anything else and when fixtures have conflicted with the development squad’s schedule, Shaw, along with teenage defender Ryan Porteous have, on a number of occasions, found themselves filling Lennon’s bench rather than playing with their younger team-mates.
Naturally Shaw would love to be in two places at the one time but like any young player the over-riding ambition is to become an established player in the “big” team.
He said: “I’m trying to work my way into the first team so if the gaffer wants to keep me with his squad then that’s a step in the right direction.
“Obviously I enjoy playing with the Under-20s and hopefully we can go on to enjoy our end to the season but we are all here for one thing and that is first-team football.”
Although he has made 22 appearances in Lennon’s team this season, Shaw has found game time at the top level rather limited in recent weeks thanks to the arrival in January of strikers Flo Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren.
He said: “It’s been frustrating but I have to be patient and when the chance comes hopefully take it. Flo and Jamie have done well and that’s the story of being a striker – if you score goals you stay in the team.”
Shaw’s goal in Dingwall was his fifth of the season but one which, he insisted, was very much down to Lennon’s winning mentality, the Hibs boss throwing him and Danny Swanson on for the final 19 minutes with the youngster simply told: “We need you, get a goal.” It proved to be a masterstroke from Lennon, his substitutes and Martin Boyle combining for Shaw to cancel out Billy Mckay’s first-half strike for the Staggies just seconds before the end of the regulation 90 minutes.
“We never thought the game was away from us,” he insisted. “We were throwing bodies up front, we could see we were creating chances, set-pieces, corners, and it was only a matter of time until we scored.
“The gaffer showed a bit of intent by throwing Danny and I on and I think the way we came back showed the character in the side. I felt we dominated the game but when things went against us we got the bit between our teeth and kept going. As a striker you always want to be on the pitch and scoring goals so I was happy to repay the manager.”
Although disappointed at having to settle for a draw, Hibs go into the final five post-split matches just three points behind Rangers and Aberdeen and comforted by the knowledge their record against the top-six clubs this season has been fairly impressive.
Shaw, who had scored the winner in the 2-1 win over County at Easter Road, said: “It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it wasn’t a disaster either. With Aberdeen losing and Rangers winning it was a bit mixed when we came off the pitch but there is a real belief we can finish second in the league.
“The last five games will be massive but we are looking forward to it as are our supporters. We’ll just take each game as it comes, but there is a confidence about us at the moment.
“Our results against the bigger teams this season have been very good so that gives us plenty of confidence.
“Getting second in our first season back in the Premiership would be a remarkable achievement. The fans would really deserve that for the way they have stuck by us and for everything they have been through in the last few years.
“They had to watch the club being relegated to the Championship and spend three season there before coming back. But this season has been good so far, we have played well in a lot of games and had some very good results.
“What we have to do now is make it a really good season by finishing strongly over the next five games.
“We are the team that’s just come up so we have nothing to lose. But we know where we want to be and where we believe we can be which is finishing second.”