Paul Heckingbottom: Hibs can remain unbeaten – but we know it’ll be tough
Paul Heckingbottom has claimed there is no reason why Hibs can’t go unbeaten for the rest of the season after seeing his side clock up a ninth Premiership match without defeat by drawing 0-0 with champions-elect Celtic.
The Easter Road head coach admitted, however, that it would be “a hell of an achievement” if his side could do that in the remaining four matches of the season with a Europa League spot still very much in mind.
Hibs remain the outsiders in that particular race, Aberdeen now eight points ahead in third place, although the Capital outfit have narrowed the gap ever so slightly on fourth-placed Kilmarnock to five points.
Heckingbottom, who insisted his entire focus at the moment was on Sunday’s derby with Hearts, said: “We need a lot of things to go our way, being five points behind with four games left. We need a lot of things to go our way, regardless of what we do. Of course it [European qualification] would be great, but it’s not what we are worried about. That is Hearts – how do we prepare? How do we win that game?”
He did, though, accept that to have a chance of Europe Hibs may well have to negotiate the final matches unbeaten, saying: “There’s no reason we can’t, but it’s tough. We’ve had to scrap and fight for everything so far so it would be a hell of an achievement – and would take some doing.
“You see the effort the boys are putting in, they are putting their bodies on the line at the back and showing a willingness to go forward and try to win games. I am proud of them right now and they deserve good things written about them and the support of the fans.”
And in terms of his unbeaten record, Heckingbottom insisted he’d happily have “won eight, lost one and had more points”, adding: “I wouldn’t need to talk about the unbeaten record and, two, we’d be higher up the league.
“We’ve had to fight for every single point we’ve had, whether it’s been three or one.”
Meanwhile goalkeeper Ofir Marciano, named man of the match for a string of superb saves including a last-gasp stop from Jozo Simunovic’s header, admitted he and his team-mates would have been heartbroken had Celtic scored at that late stage.
Agreeing he’d possibly enjoyed his best game of the season, the Israeli internationalist said: “Every save is important, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first minute or the last.
“They are all vital and you have to help your team. It was a boost for our confidence so I’m happy I made those saves, that I have been there for my team.
“I enjoyed the weather, first and foremost as it was an amazing day. You don’t get that kind of weather often in Scotland so it made for a great game and for a great performance from both teams.
“It was a positive advert for Scottish football as well. It’s something we need to be proud of even though I’m a bit disappointed that we couldn’t take the three points. I am still happy that we took one.”