Martin Boyle has admitted tomorrow’s match of the day against table-topping Aberdeen gives him and his Hibs team-mates the chance to make amends for recent disappointing results at Easter Road.
Neil Lennon’s players, returning to the Premiership after a three-year absence, have made a promising start to the season and currently sit in the upper half of the league.
But they readily acknowledge that they could easily have been occupying a much loftier positiion had they managed to take more than the solitary point earned from visits by Hamilton and Motherwell.
In fact, had they taken maximum points from those games, they’d today be sitting just two behind Celtic and Aberdeen – the Glasgow outfit ahead on goal difference – instead of seven adrift.
Astonishingly, the 3-1 defeat by Hamilton and the 2-2 draw against Motherwell have been Hibs’ only home games in the Premiership in almost two months, their away fixtures in that period having seen them go unbeaten, the most recent a highly-creditable draw with champions Celtic in which they came the closest to ending the impressive 16-month unbeaten run in domestic competition put together by Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Today, Boyle conceded he and his team-mates desperately need to replicate the form they have shown on the road where it matters most – on their own doorstep.
He said: “It’s not too often people can come away from Celtic Park and say they were disappointed. But we matched Celtic on the day, it was a positive result and we need to bring that into our home games.
“Against Hamilton, no-one was on their game and, when Motherwell were here last time, we were a bit sloppy in giving two goals away. We want to rectify that and give the fans a show.
“They pay their hard-earned money. We’re going to have a massive crowd with the vast majority on our side.”
Lennon has accused his side of having a “Jekyll and Hyde” tendency, one capable of going to Ibrox and beating Rangers but losing at home to Hamilton the next, a perfect example of their manager’s stance. Boyle agreed this is something that has to be eradicated.
However, with tomorrow’s visit by Aberdeen followed quickly by next weekend’s Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden and the first Edinburgh derby of the season against Hearts the following Tuesday, there is, Boyle believes, little chance of anyone allowing their game to drop.
He said: “It’s three big games in ten days but a run we are all looking forward to. These are the games you want to play in. It’s why we wanted to get out of the Championship and these are matches we are really relishing.
“When the big games come around, we are ready, but we have to be able to do it at against other teams as well. It was like that in the Championship. You play Dundee United one week and Dumbarton away the next week. You have to lift yourself up for it.”
Tomorrow’s match is a repeat of last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final, the Dons’ 3-2 win ending Hibs’ hopes of retaining the trophy they’d won for the first time in 114 years 12 months earlier. But, insisted Boyle, that defeat showed Hibs can match Derek McInnes’ side, the flying winger adamant they could easily have gone on to win the game despite having lost two early goals, something he agreed they can’t afford to do this time round.
He said: “We were very sloppy in the first 25 minutes that day but, when we got the first goal back, it looked as if we were going on to win it only for them to get that deflection late on that killed it.
“When you gift good teams a start like that it is very hard to come back even if we did almost do it. We know we can’t do that tomorrow but we’ll still be going to win the game. We won’t be sitting back.
“We will go and attack. The gaffer is very attack-minded so we will go and try to put on a show for the fans who have been behind us home and away as they will be tomorrow with our supporters going to be on all four sides of the ground.”
There’s been a perception since the season got underway that Aberdeen, having lost the likes of Niall McGinn, Jonny Hayes and Ryan Jack over the summer, haven’t enjoyed the best of starts, a thought immediately shot down by Boyle.
He said: “The table doesn’t show that. They are unbeaten in the league and they are up there for a reason. They have lost some valuable players but have brought in just as good replacements.
“Derek McInnes has done good business and they are up there again. He has a good side – we know that from playing them in the semi-final, the attacking threats they have.
“But we also know how we can expose and hurt them while we have certain individuals, like John McGinn, who are flying at the moment.”
Hibs have scored just one goal fewer than Aberdeen so far but have conceded twice as many, a statistic Boyle admitted needed attention saying: “We need to shut the back door, score a few more goals and give our centre halves a bit of a rest.”
The Dons, though, scored three times through Adam Rooney as they defeated St Johnstone last time out, a fact which hasn’t escaped the attention of Lennon, who said: “Aberdeen is a really good test for us. They are an excellent side with an excellent manager and we know we are going to be really tested.”