TOM Taiwo today urged his Easter Road team-mates to secure a top-six finish as quickly as possible by bringing greater consistency into their game.
Pat Fenlon’s side have struggled for points in recent weeks, their win against St Mirren last weekend their first of 2013 in the SPL and only their second since the beginning of December.
But despite picking up just ten points out of a possible 33 in that period, Hibs remain fourth in the table although the battle for a top six place is becoming more intense as the split draws near.
Hibs go into tomorrow’s match against Dundee United knowing victory at Tannadice could see them go joint second with Motherwell should today’s results go their way – but they could drop into the bottom half of the table should they lose and their rivals pick up points.
Taiwo, though, insisted Fenlon’s players have learned to cope with living on a knife-edge, claiming the pressure was on even when Hibs found themselves in even loftier positions earlier in the season. The midfielder said: “I think even when we were second or third the points margin was not that great.
“We’ve seen nearly every team that’s got up to second spot kind of lose their way a little bit and that’s the difference between Celtic and the rest of us, we do not quite get the consistency we are looking for. The manager has told us that if we want to kick on, have a good Scottish Cup run, to do well in the League and challenge for the higher places then we have to bring that into our game.”
To that end Taiwo insisted Hibs will approach tomorrow’s match seeking to build some momentum following their win in Paisley. You have to go back to late November and early December to uncover the last time the Capital side recorded back-to-back wins, their Cup triumph over arch-rivals Hearts coming hard on the heels of a win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
And you have to go even further back for the last time they did it in the league, a run of three successive wins, culminating in victory over tomorrow’s opponents at Easter Road, at the end of October and beginning of November.
The former Leeds United, Chelsea and Carlisle United star said: “We are looking for consistency, not just in result but in our performance as well. I think a run or two or three wins could see us in the top six and that must be our first aim, to cement that place.”
However, Taiwo admitted that with only six matches left for Fenlon’s players before the SPL divides, there was little margin for error with only five points separating second top from ninth place. And having started a match for the first time in almost a month against the Buddies, he’s determined to play his part.
He said: “It was good to get a start. I’d missed my football over the previous few weeks. It’s not much fun watching from the stand or the bench. I really enjoyed the game, the performance and, of course, the win. The league is so tight it could well be top six places won’t fully be determined until the final round of matches.
“Two or three wins could catapult you into second place and if we could string that run of results together we’d be looking a lot safer for a top six finish. That’s the aim, to do that in the league and keep our Cup run going.”
Taiwo had yet to sign for Hibs when Fenlon’s players crashed 3-0 against United on Tayside on the opening day of the season but, as he pointed out, the Edinburgh side enjoyed a measure of revenge when the sides met again in the Capital.
But, he admitted, tomorrow promises to be another tough encounter with United having won three of their four matches since Jackie McNamara succeeded Peter Houston as manager while he’s also well aware of the threat posed by the likes of striker Johnny Russell – who has scored eight goals in his last seven matches – and winger Gary Mackay-Steven.
He said: “United have had some good results, an impressive win against Rangers in the Cup and good win over Motherwell in midweek so they will be in confident mood.
“I’ve seen Russell and Mackay-Steven play and saw all the speculation surrounding them earlier in the season but we dealt with them really well last time we played them. We limited them both to very few chances. Our back four has been playing quite well recently, minus the St Johnstone game, and we’ll be looking for them to do the same again.”