Hibs Need To Take Their Chances
A win over St Mirren on Saturday would allow Hibs to continue their challenge to pick up the UEFA cup place on offer to the side that finishes third in the SPL. Manager Mixu Paatelainen believes reaching that target for next season would be an "incredible achievement" given the situation when he took over from John Collins at Easter Road. The other contenders for the European place - Dundee United and Motherwell - face the Old Firm this weekend, which gives Hibs a chance to close the two-point gap to both clubs. Hibs will then have five games after the league splits to complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes by achieving third place. When Paatelainen succeeded John Collins in January, Hibs were in eighth place but the ex-Finland striker has restored confidence and belief to turn around their fortunes.
He said: "It would be an incredible achievement from the players to finish third. The confidence was really low (in January), results were going against the team and we were not in the top six - eighth, I think. The target really was to try to qualify for the top six, anything above that was a bonus. All credit to the players for lifting their spirits and performing as a team in a determined manner to win matches. We have a great possibility to finish third but we'll see how we get on this weekend. St Mirren will come here and I'm sure make it very difficult for us. Hibs haven't beaten them yet this season so hopefully it's something we can put right."
Hibs put up a poor 1-0 defeat at Motherwell last weekend and really missed key players like Scotland striker Steven Fletcher. But Paatelainen is set to have a stronger squad for the visit of the Buddies and hopes his side can capitalise to get back to winning ways. He said: "It was massively disappointing to lose to Motherwell. The way we played was really disappointing and all credit to Motherwell, they deserved the victory. They started really brightly, took the initiative and scored early. With a little bit of luck we might have got an equaliser and even a winner but it wasn't to be. That is why the start of the matches are so important. Now it will be interesting how St Mirren react to not being involved at the bottom any more. Are they complacent? Do they relax and play better and be sharper? We just need to worry about ourselves and hopefully win the game."
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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