Talking point: Mission accomplished - but what next for Hibs and Paul Heckingbottom?

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When Paul Heckingbottom arrived as Hibs' new head coach at the start of February, Hibs were eighth in the Ladbrokes Premiership and had a tough task on their hands to make the top six.

Wednesday's goalless draw against Kilmarnock won't be remembered for its action, but it was the result, coupled with Aberdeen's 3-1 win over Motherwell, that secured their top-six status after next weekend's split.

Paul Heckingbottom has guided Hibs into the top six. Pic: SNS

Paul Heckingbottom has guided Hibs into the top six. Pic: SNS

Heckingbottom is still undefeated the in league, guiding the Hibees to five wins and two draws. Him and his players deserve plaudits for the way they have turned their season around after a wretched run before Neil Lennon's exit.

The question now is what next for Heckingbottom and his charges? The first major landmark has been achieved in securing post-split matches against Aberdeen, Hearts, Kilmarnock and the Old Firm. Where do they go from here?

The big matches come thick and fast, starting with a trip to Tynecastle this weekend. Hibs are only a point behind Hearts in fifth place and six points behind Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, who share third place and the Europa League berth. Fourth-place, of course, could also glean European football depending on the winner of the Scottish Cup.

The post-split fixtures are likely to be finalised by the start of next week. Hibs are due to welcome Hearts and Celtic to Easter Road, with trips to Kilmarnock and Rangers on the horizon. They have hosted Aberdeen twice already, but with a potential imbalance of home and away games for each team in top six, they may get the Dons in Edinburgh a third time rather than face a journey to Pittodrie.

Regardless of how the fixtures fall, Hibs are in a race for Europe now. They have momentum and a squad that is not accustomed to losing. The matches get tougher - there will be no encounters against the lesser teams in this division - but a top-four finish is there to be shot at. They have nothing to lose.

Granted, they will need to show more attacking flair than they did against Kilmarnock, but considering the run Hibs have gone on since Heckingbottom arrived and the improvement the players have made, you would not put it past them to do it. At least the club has something to play for in the coming weeks, a scenario that seemed fanciful a few months ago.