Hibs showing great “intensity and drive” says Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom suffered his first defeat as Hibernian manager against Celtic last weekend (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has praised his side’s “intensity and drive” as they look to seal a sixth place spot in the Scottish Premiership.

Heckingbottom has won three of his first four games in charge at Easter Road, but lost to Celtic last weekend 2-0 in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup.

Hibs face Rangers tonight in the league, and the manager admitted that Steven Gerrard’s side could have an advantage as they have a larger squad to work with.

“They’ve been good, hit a lot of form now [and] scoring goals,” Heckingbottom said.

“I can’t imagine Steven changing too much, but he does have the capabilities to do that if he wants with the squad he’s got and the players he’s got competing for each position but I don’t think there’ll be too much different in the set-up and how he approaches the game.

“We’re struggling with injuries and suspensions where we don’t have the personnel to rotate the squad without significantly weakening the team.”

Hibs are currently sixth in the league, three points behind neighbours Hearts but three points clear of St Johnstone.

Heckingbottom revealed that remaining in the top six is now the aim for the rest of the season.

He added: “That’s our focus [and]that’s what our focus has been.

“We’ve been chasing, and we said that before the last away game that all of a sudden we are now in the top six with teams chasing us, we earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, get the sixth spot.

“The players fought and fought and fought and managed to pull away and get another three points, so it’s that sort of intensity and drive we want to have between now and the end of the season.

“You’ve got to fight for it, whoever does get in that top six will deserve it and we want to make sure that it’s us.”

Heckingbottom also praised the efforts his squad has made to adapt to his tactics, with everyone at the club “on the same page” and “searching for the same answers.”

He said: “The players have responded really well [to my way of working].

“We earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, [to] get the sixth spot.”

“I spoke to them again in training and whatever ideas I have they’ll do it and when they’re trying and giving everything I back them 100%.

“We know we are in progress, we know where we are in the league in terms of standings, size of clubs, but we have to use that to our advantage and be a team that enjoys playing against the so-called bigger clubs, and also enjoying having the status of a big club ourselves when other teams come to town.

“So we know where we are, we’ve really enjoyed the start but we know we’ve got to keep improving.”

It all gets underway at Easter Road from 7:45pm and the match is live on BT Sport.

Stevenson reveals “excitement” at working under 10th Hibs boss

Lewis Stevenson

Lewis Stevenson has spent 14 years at the club (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian left-back Lewis Stevenson says it’s a clean slate for himself as he works under his 10th boss, Paul Heckingbottom, as he looks to impress his new manager.

The 31-year-old made his debut for the Edinburgh club in 2005 and is currently the longest serving player at the club.

However, he admitted he feels there is still the same nerves when a new boss is appointed.

He said: “Every time a new manager is appointed there is the same nerves and apprehension, and perhaps the same excitement as well. I have learnt something new from everyone who’s managed at Hibs, I don’t think it matters how old you are at all.

“With Paul coming all the way from England, of course the lads feel like they have a point to prove. But as soon as he came in it was clear he knew all about us so that helped put our minds at ease.”

The clubs perfect record under Heckingbottom came to an end in their quarter-final clash with Celtic at Easter Road on Saturday.

Stevenson spoke of the positives and negatives the side took from their defeat against the reigning champions.

He added: “There are things we did very well on Saturday and things we didn’t do so well, but we know what we need to focus on. If we can get rid of the negatives then that will stand us in good stead for the future.”

However, things are not about to get any easier for Easter Road side as they host Steven Gerrard’s Rangers on Friday night.

Lewis Stevenson

Hibernian were knocked out the Scottish Cup last weekend in a 2-0 home defeat to Celtic (Credit: David Ronney)

According to the veteran full back, the games against the bigger teams in Scotland are the ones he relishes most.

He said: “These are the games you really want to play in, when it’s a full house. Big crowds usually mean a higher tempo and a higher intensity of game. We’re a more physical side now and we’ll need all our stamina on Friday night.

“We’re looking at them as a team and we’re well aware how good a side they are from playing them at Ibrox earlier on in the season. But if we implement our game plan then we know we’ve got a very good chance to come away with all the points.”

Hibs are currently in sixth place, and only three points off rivals Hearts. With a European spot not yet out of sight, Stevenson spoke of the sides desire to push on and finish as high in the table as possible.

“We’re trying not to focus too much on how the table looks and just take each game that comes to us. We’ve got five games before the split and we’ll try to get three or four wins and see where that leaves us.”

Hibs will be different against returning Lennon says Heckingbottom

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Hibernian boss, Paul Heckingbottom said he’s looking forward to meet his predecessor. (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager, Paul Heckingbottom believes there will be enough differences tactically for a level playing field upon Neil Lennon’s return to Easter Road.

Celtic take on the Edinburgh club this Saturday in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup with new interim manager, Lennon.

The Northern Irishman left Hibs in January but made a surprise return to Scottish football earlier this week.

However, despite Lennon managing Hibs earlier this season, Heckingbottom said there won’t be a tactical advantage.

He said: “Well it is [his squad]. I’ve not signed a player.

“He is going to know the players but he’s not going to know what we ask them to do. For me it’s the same, for Neil [Lennon] is coming back somewhere he’s worked before which is always strange.

“It’ll different for Neil coming back to his old club which as I say is always a different sensation but for me nothing has changed.

“It’ll be nice to meet Neil [Lennon]. We’ve never met so it’ll be good to catch up after the game.”

It has been an eventful week for Celtic players and fans alike with the departure of Rodgers and his successor. But Heckingbottom insists it’ll be business as usual for the reigning Scottish Cup champions.

He added: “Obviously, Brendan [Rodgers] is gone. Big opportunity for Brendan and big opportunity for Neil now coming in as well. People just have to look forward.

 

“Celtic fans will be moving on now thinking about this trophy [Scottish Cup]. Football does that, everything is a big sensation one minute and then it just dies down and everyone gets on with it.”

The Hibees have won three out of three under new management with on-loan Reading player, Marc McNulty impressing the most. The Scotsman has scored six goals in four matches with his new club and his manager was impressed with his performances so far.

He said: “I’ve been really pleased with him.

“I can see him continually getting better because he’s not played much football and now he’s getting a run of games. He’s getting his fitness levels back up, his sharpness. We know he can score goals. I think he’ll be good for us between now and the end of the season.”

Hibernian vs Celtic: Scottish Cup Preview

Scottish Cup

Hibernian will be hoping to replicate the successful run in 2016 (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian welcome Scottish Cup reigning champions, Celtic to Easter Road this weekend, in what is shaping up to be a fascinating fixture following Neil Lennon’s appointment at the helm of the hoops.

Lennon left the Edinburgh club in Janurary and has made a swift return to Scottish football with Celtic only a month later.

The job of Celtic manager was vacated by Brendan Rodgers, who was tempted south to take over at Leicester City following the sacking of Claude Puel on Monday. This sacking was the start of the carousel of manager turnover this week.

Lennon will no doubt receive a mixed reception from the fans upon his return to Leith.

The Northern Irishman was in the dugout celebrating the last gasp winner against 10-man Hearts on Wednesday night that maintained his side’s eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership table ahead of Rangers in second place.

On the other hand, Hibs have enjoyed a good run of form under their new manager Paul Heckingbottom. The new boss has won three out of three since his arrival in mid February. This included an impressive win at St Johnstone on Wednesday night, with Marc McNulty grabbing the winner five minutes from time despite Hibernian going down to 10 men.

That win took them to within three points of fierce rivals Hearts who currently sit in fifth in the SPFL after a disappointing mid-season lull due a long string of injuries.

Heckingbottom will know beating Celtic will hand them a fantastic chance of silverware this season, which would be all too welcome considering their woes in the league this season.

Neil Lennon will be hoping to win a game at Easter Road, which incidentally is something his predecessor Brendan Rodgers never managed to do. A win is essential if the dream of the treble treble is to be kept alive.

The first match of the Scottish Cup weekend kicks off on Saturday at 5:15pm and is live on Premier Sports.

Scottish Cup for Hibs would mean ‘a lot’ says Omeonga

Omeonga and the Scottish Cup

Stephane Omeonga is yet to win a trophy in his short professional career (Credit: David Ronney)


Hibernian midfielder Stephane Omeonga has admitted he would love to win his first trophy with the club and replicate 2016’s Scottish Cup success.

The Edinburgh side welcome Celtic to Easter Road tomorrow night in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals.

The Belgian midfielder is yet to win a trophy in his professional career and said it would mean “a lot” if the club managed to the reigning champions.

He said: “If I win this it will be the first ever in my career, so it’s a good challenge.

“Every football wants to win titles. I saw a video of the fans singing Sunshine on Leith and it was wonderful, so if we can give them that joy then it would be really good.”


Despite his desire to win a trophy, the 22-year-old insists the Edinburgh side are not getting ahead of themselves and instead are “fully focused” on tomorrow’s match.

He added: “We just think that Celtic are a good team and just focus on that.

“We just think about that game and the rest we will see after.”

Tomorrow marks the return of former Hibernian manager Neil Lennon to Easter Road since he departed the club last month. However, Omeonga doesn’t believe this will affect what happens on the pitch.

“I don’t think about it to be honest,” he said.

“The first thing that went into my head is, am I going to play again?”

“I just think that we are facing Celtic who are a good team and who the manager is on the bench I don’t know, I don’t think about it.”

Lennon was the man that brought Omeonga to Hibs, but the Belgian only worked with Lennon for “two days and 45 minutes.”

Omeonga admitted he was initially unsure how Lennon’s exit would affect his position at the club but is confident a new manager will benefit the rest of the team.

Stephane Omeonga

The Belgian midfielder eyes up potential silverware this season (Credit: Luke Barry)

“The first thing that went into my head is, am I going to play again? And then the club and the staff  gave me some confidence that the project is still the same and they still believe in me, and since then it’s been good.

“I think it [can be] good [to have a new manager], because you don’t have the time to settle down and think I’ve earned it. I think every footballer has to show [their best] every day and every game and when a new coach comes you have that energy to show again [what you can do].”

 

Hibs boss, Lennon calls on defensive and attacking recruitment before window closes

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Hibernian manager, Neil Lennon believes the club need to recruit more players before the end of the January window if they are to finish in the top six. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hibernian boss, Neil Lennon has called for recruitment at both ends of the park if the Edinburgh side are to finish in the top six by the end of the season.

The latest blow to the Hibees injury list was defender Ryan Porteous who has received a scan today on a potential long-term knee injury.

Lennon now believes the club need to resolve both their defensive and attacking issues this season by bringing in at least two players before the transfer window closes next week.

Porteous came off 28 minutes into Hibs’ 1-0 defeat to Motherwell at Fir Park. Lennon gave an update to the defender’s condition. He said: “He is getting scanned today so I am not sure how severe it is yet, but it didn’t look good after the game on Wednesday night. It is just another blow, coming into this month we’ve arguably lost our three best players of the first half of the season. Ryan, Martin Boyle – who is out for the rest of the season – and Efe Ambrose.”

Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has been left frustrated by the number of injuries to his side this season. (Photo credit: David Ronney)

Lennon then turned his focus to bringing in players before the end of the month. He added: “With Efe [Ambrose] being away and now Ryan out it’ll depend on the length of his injury, but it is something we will maybe need to look in to.

“We need to get some players in to bolster what we have because we need an injection of freshness and quality. We are down to the barebones, we have five academy players in the squad of 18 so we only have 13 senior players currently available. We need to get some work done and start challenging for the top six.

“That’s what we are working on [buying a striker], and a wide player as well. We want to bring in at two players at the minimum between now and the end of January, I think that is essential. It is vitally important that a striker comes in because at the minute we have only two options in that position. Everyone is looking for strikers, but we need an injection of quality to help us up top.”

One positive the Hibs manager can certainly take from recent weeks is the impact made by playmaker Ryan Gauld who has already been influential in his second spell at the club.

Lennon hailed the new recruit. He said: “I was really pleased with him, he is playing well and he well definitely continue to bring quality to the team. In the two games he has played he’s been arguably our best player.”

Hibernian take on St Mirren on Sunday where they’ll be looking to bounce back and obtain their first win in the Premiership for the new year.

Football Chat @ 3pm

The squad are back to breakdown Scottish football.

The Scottish draw results in another Edinburgh Derby, Celtic are back in action in the Champions League and why do Rangers still not have a new manager?

Ewan Hawthorne is joined by Ryan Maher and Cameron Storer.

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Livingston striker Nikolay Todorov hopes being on loan from Hearts wont bring Hibs boos

NIKOLAY TODOROV is hoping the Hibs fans stay off his back as he travles to Easter Road in the Betfred Cup tonight.

Todorov is on loan at Livingston from Hibees’ city rivals Hearts and is relishing the opportunity in his first clash against the Leith side.

Easter Road

The Bulgarian striker failed to make an appearance for the Jambos since signing from Nottingham Forest in 2016 – spending last season on loan at League Two Cowdenbeath before helping Livi gain promotion form League One.

Currently in his second stint at the Tony Macaroni Arena; the 21-year-old is desperate to send the Lions into a semi-final at Hampden Park – but hopes his next visit to Hibs will see him wearing maroon.

He told the Scotsman: “I’m looking forward to it, it’s a big game for us and we’ve done really well to get to where we are.

“We’ll see if the Hibs fans give me a 
hard time. I hope they don’t but even if they do I’m a professional and I’ll deal with it.

“I’ve not been to Easter Road before but it will be a privilege to play there.

“Of course I hope to be going to places like Easter Road as a Hearts player in future.”

Livingston are unbeaten in the Betfred Cup this season – winning all four group fixtures and a dramatic last-16 tie over Falkirk.

Despite their great form Todorv insists his sides are taking it one game at a time.

He added: “For me I just need to focus game to game. If you do that then you’ll move forward step by step.

“Of course Hibs are the favourites but it’s eleven versus eleven, we’ll work hard.

“We’re working really hard on the training pitch and in matches and we have a great team spirit, it’s a motivation knowing you could play at Hampden but we’re really focussed on the game.”


 

Keatings on fire as Hibees extend unbeaten run

Hibernian……….2

Livingston………1

James Keatings continued his fine run of form as he netted a brace in Hibernian’s victory over Livingston on Tuesday.

The Hibees moved to within two points of leaders Rangers at the top of the Championship table thanks to the former Hearts man’s goals, with Livi only able to muster a late consolation through Jordyn Sheerin.

Despite the two sides’ positions near the top and bottom of the table respectively, the visitors made life difficult for Hibs with an organised and disciplined performance and it took until the second half for the hosts to make the breakthrough.

The first half was a tense affair and although Livi posed a threat through Jordan White and Ross Millen, the home side should have gone in at the interval well in front.

A series of poor decisions in the final third, combined with an out-of-character miss from Jason Cummings after the striker had rounded Marc McCallum, meant that the teams returned to the dressing rooms with the game goalless.

The visitors could have punished the Scotland Under-21 international and his team-mates immediately after half time, but Mark Oxley confirmed his status as one of the finest goalkeepers in the division with fine saves from Scott Pittman and Myles Hippolyte.

Hibs manager Alan Stubbs threw on Dylan McGeouch in place of the ineffective Martin Boyle and the former Celtic man had a decisive impact.

His drive and commitment in midfield allowed John McGinn to more freely, and the youngster’s fine reverse pass played in Keatings who opened the scoring with a crisp finish beyond McCallum.

Cummings passed up two more fine scoring chances as he attempted to add to his record of scoring in each of his last seven games, but it would not matter as the Hibees made the result safe shortly afterwards.

Keatings, a summer signing from city rivals Hearts, had scored a hat-trick on his last appearance in the victory over St Mirren and he kept his outstanding form going with his second goal of the game.

The 23-year-old showed nice footwork to beat two defenders before rifling a shot past the goalkeeper, who had no chance.

The sense of relief was palpable around Easter Road on what had been a frustrating night for the title chasers.

Hibs were made to worry late on when two Livingston substitutes combined to give their side hope. Liam Buchanan, who joined from Championship rivals Alloa at the beginning of the season, crossed for Sheerin who made no mistake with his finish beyond Oxley.

However, that came too late for the visitors to find a route back into the game and the home side saw out their eighth consecutive win fairly comfortably.

Hibernian: Oxley, Gray (c), McGregor, Fontaine, Stevenson, Boyle (McGeouch), Fyvie, Henderson (Bartley), McGinn, Keatings, Cummings (Feruz).

Livingston: McCallum, Neill, Gallagher, Gordon, Longridge, Millen, Gibbons, Faria (Georgiev), Hippolyte (Sheerin), White (Buchanan), Pittman.

 

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