Garry Parker has admitted he’d happily settle for a draw at Tynecastle tomorrow – as long as Hibs’ Scottish Cup fifth-round tie with Capital rivals Hearts ends in the same way as last season.
At this stage a year ago, the Easter Road side battled back to earn a 2-2 draw and force a replay which was won by Jason Cummings’ early strike before going on to smash their 114-year cup hoodoo. Now, by one of football’s strange quirks of fate, Hibs – now under the charge of Neil Lennon and his assistant Parker – return to the Gorgie ground determined to keep their hands on the trophy.
Lennon has admitted his side make the short journey across Edinburgh for the lunchtime start as underdogs but, insisted Parker, they will do so emboldened by the memory of that day.
And given the manner of that fightback and the way they again came from behind to beat Rangers in the final, Parker is adamant Lennon’s players have what it takes to handle the occasion against Ian Cathro’s new-look side.
He admitted, however, the influx of new players at Tynecastle has made it more difficult to prepare for the game, before adding: “A derby takes care of itself. When you put your players out there – across the white line – you don’t even think about that. You just play your football – if there’s any football to be played. It’ll be 100 miles per hour.
“I watched Hearts against Raith when I don’t think they played particularly well, but then in the two games after that they’ve picked up and have done very well so it will be a tough game. Our players have been looking forward to it since the draw.
“I wasn’t here last year obviously but they got through against Hearts. It took a replay. Happy days. Hopefully, we can try and do the same this year. The right result is not to get knocked out.
“We won it last year and we don’t want to give it away. We want to try and have a good cup run. Obviously, promotion is the priority but a good cup run is brilliant for everyone, particularly the fans and the players. If they can go all the way like last year, fantastic.
“The experience of last year will help but, going into a derby, anything can happen. I know all about them. I was involved at Celtic against Rangers but as a player Luton v Watford, Aston Villa v Birmingham, Nottingham Forest v Derby, Forest v Leicester and the other way round, Leicester v Forest and Leicester v Derby.
“You are motivated. You just want to play and get the right result.”
It will also, admitted Parker, be a day for cool heads. He said: “You don’t want to go out there and get booked early doors. But it is going to be a physical game. It is going to be a battle like they all are. It’s just how you handle it on the day. I think we will be fine in that respect.”
Parker revealed that other than Paul Hanlon, who has had surgery on his pelvic problem and could be back for next weekend’s Championship match against Raith Rovers, Lennon has a full squad at his disposal, defender Jordon Forster having recovered from the dead leg which forced him to miss the draw with Ayr United.
And Norwegian trialist Thomas Drage will remain at East Mains into next week to allow Lennon to have an extended look at the 24-year-old midfielder.