PAUL HANLON today insisted Hibs have the bottle for a relegation fight which is increasingly looking as if it will go down to the wire.
The Easter Road side enjoy what appears to be a comfortable lead over SPL basement outfit Dunfermline with only four games remaining – including a visit from the Pars in the penultimate game of the season.
But their advantage was cut from seven to six points as Pat Fenlon’s players went down to Kilmarnock 24 hours after Dunfermline had staged a dramatic fightback to snatch a draw against St Mirren in Paisley.
While skipper James McPake admitted the events of the weekend will have given Jim Jefferies’ side a glimmer of hope, Hanlon was adamant little has changed, claiming he and his team-mates have been under pressure for much of the season.
As he prepared for tomorrow night’s friendly against Italy at Easter Road, the Scotland Under-21 captain said: “People are keen to jump on us and put extra pressure on us but we have been dealing with that all season.
“We’ve been under immense pressure week after week but we’ve been dealing with it and hopefully we can carry on doing so.”
Nevertheless, Hanlon admitted he was disappointed to have gone down to Killie, with Pat Fenlon’s players keen to end the relegation issue as quickly as possible and turn their attention on next month’s historic Scottish Cup final against Capital rivals Hearts.
He said: “They didn’t have a shot on goal all game apart from the penalty which decided it. Mark Brown didn’t have a save to make but at the other end we perhaps lacked a bit of quality to break them down in the second half. We dominated the game and the gaffer has been keeping our spirits up, telling us that if we play as we did and create chances, especially as we did in the first half, then we will win games in the future.”
Hibs will be without the suspended Leigh Griffiths and David Wotherspoon when Dunfermline arrive in town but Hanlon believes the on-loan Wolves striker can play his part in steering Fenlon’s side to safety before then as they face St Mirren and Aberdeen.
He said: “When Leigh is on top form he’s almost unplayable, so hopefully he can put in two good performances between now and then.”
Meanwhile, Hibs will be looking to retain the East of Scotland Shield when they play Hearts at Easter Road on Monday night (kick-off 7pm). The match will be contested between the clubs’ Under-17 sides. Admission £4 (adults), £2 (concessions).