Neil Lennon has insisted winning is all that matters as he looks to emerge from tomorrow’s match against Raith Rovers with a victory which would leave Hibs in “a very strong position”, nine points clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Championship table.
The Easter Road boss admitted the goalless Scottish Cup draw with arch-rivals Hearts last weekend might not have been a classic in many people’s eyes, but revealed he cared little for their opinion.
He said: “Listen, I’m not here for the neutrals. I really don’t care what they thought of the game. My remit was to get through and make sure we didn’t get beat so the players handled the occasion very, very well.”
Lennon was adamant the state of the pitch at Tynecastle prevented an eye-pleasing style of football and, while some may say the better surface at Easter Road may suit Hearts in Wednesday night’s replay, he argued: “It will certainly suit us. It was impossible to play football [at Tynecastle].
“I watched Rangers two or three weeks earlier try to play that way and they got beat 4-1. Rangers are a stronger club than us with better individuals and Hearts did a number on them. I certainly didn’t want that happening to me or my team, especially in my first derby.
“I don’t think you can play football all the time. Teams try to and the ball is bobbling, teams press you and it makes it difficult to play through them on poor pitches. I have seen it many times before. I looked at the pitch on Sunday and said ‘I don’t think I have great ball-playing centre halves today anyway, so we are going to be a little bit more direct, play in the final third and put them under pressure’.”
Anticipating the pitch at Stark’s Park, like most throughout the country, won’t be in pristine condition, Lennon is willing to win however victory is achieved.
He said: “We all want to play a certain way and we all want to win in style and have a football philosophy. My philosophy after being in management for what, six or seven years now, is to win, whether you win as well as you can or win by as little as you can.
“However it is, it certainly makes your weekend a lot better when you win although you can analyse your performance. We’ve heard that cliché before where ‘we’ve played better and lost’. It doesn’t make your Saturday night any better. Trust me.”
Hibs face former captain and manager John Hughes as he takes charge of Raith for the first time add although he believes the arrival of Yogi will give the struggling Fife club a lift, Lennon insisted: “Our focus is to win the game, stretch the lead and put pressure on the teams chasing us because eventually they are going to have to play each other and points will be dropped here and there.
“It is important that we keep going consistently. We have been on a good run and sometimes that gets overlooked by some people.”
Adamant he doesn’t want a repeat of a dire first 45 minutes against Ayr United ahead of the first meeting with Hearts, Lennon said: “If anyone has any ideas about taking their foot off the gas and saving themselves for the replay then I think that idea is misconstrued.
“I want to get promotion and the club wants to get promotion. If we win we will be nine points ahead with 12 games to go. That would put us in a very strong position. If we don’t win we are six clear, but the incentive is there to make the others work really hard to catch us.”
Lennon confirmed Hibs will be without both Jordon Forster and Paul Hanlon for both tomorrow and the visit of Hearts but revealed he hopes the latter might be ready to face Dunfermline next Saturday,
Meanwhile, he won’t be pursuing Norwegian winger Thomas Drage who had been on trial with Hibs and former Crystal Palace forward Kieron Cadogan who played in the development squad’s draw with Inverness Caley, saying: “We get offered a lot of trialists and it does not cost us anything to have a look. Any trialist coming in would have to be of a very good standard for us to entertain them.”