Hibs are “pushing as hard as they can” in the fight with Rangers and Aberdeen for second position in the Ladbrokes Premiership, according to defender Paul Hanlon.
The Easter Road outfit trimmed second-placed Rangers’ lead to just four points, overcoming a below-par performance to beat struggling Partick Thistle 2-0 with goals from Jamie Maclaren and Hanlon himself.
Hibs now have the chance to slash the Ibrox club’s advantage to a single point should they win tomorrow’s game in hand against Hamilton on a night when Aberdeen, locked on 59 points with Rangers, travel to face Motherwell.
Hanlon, however, conceded he and his fourth-placed team-mates will have to do much better than they did against the Jags while insisting they are prepared to dig in to get the victory ahead of Saturday’s match away to Ross County, the final fixture before the split.
Anticipating similar approaches from the Accies and the Dingwall side, he said: “We know we’re going to have to do that now we’re reaching the business end of the season. You can’t play pretty football every week, teams such as Partick are fighting for their lives and are going to try and stop you doing that.
“But we’ve got to embrace it and enjoy it and do our best. The gaffer is always going to be demanding the best from us. That will never change and as long as we’re in the hunt for second place we’ll be pushing as hard as we can. The games are coming thick and fast and we’re ready to go again, although we must play better than we did against Thistle.”
Hibs boss Neil Lennon raised many eyebrows when he claimed before a ball was kicked that his side were capable of finishing runners-up behind Celtic but few are arguing with him now, as Hanlon pointed out.
He said: “We did a lot of talking before we got promoted to say we were this and that, a good SPFL team and we should be up in the top half of the Premiership and we’ve proved that this season. We’ve proved this season we can beat anyone on our day.
“The goal was to cement top six as early as possible and push on from there. We’ve done that and we’ve just got to push the teams above us as hard as we can. Rangers are a massive club in Scotland with greater finances than us and Aberdeen have been consistently second in the league for a number of seasons now. We’ve got to push them as hard as we can and we’re full of confidence we can do that.”
While fourth would be a highly respectable finish for any side newly restored to the top flight, Hanlon knows Lennon will demand even more in the closing weeks of the season.
He said: “He will always push hard, constantly, that’s just within him. He’s used to being at the top of the game, he wants to be there and he sees we can be up there challenging for the top positions and he’s going to do his all to get us there.”
Hibs, however, will be without Marvin Bartley for the first game after the split, the midfield powerhouse having picked up his sixth yellow card of the season following an altercation with Thistle’s Christie Elliott.