Hibs take on neighbours Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup on Sunday and hope to banish memories of recent Derby performances which have failed to see the Hibees turn up when it matters most to the supporters.
Without a win in 12 games against their bitter rivals, the fans will certainly be hoping to see their heroes turn in a committed, battling display which, to be fair has been evident in the majority of the Hibees performances this season under Pat Fenlon.
The new found resilience of the side has Hibs fans hoping Sunday will finally be the time they see a victory against the Jambo’s – it would be the first since May 2009 when a Derek Riordan penalty secured a 1-0 win at Tynecastle, a match which saw a home supporter trying to attack the Hibs goalscorer.
Last season saw Hibs capsize every time they faced their rivals culminating in an embarrassing 5-1 defeat in the Scottish Cup Final.
Hibs this season are an entirely different animal. Out have went the uninterested, unfit, party boys and unprofessional. They’ve been replaced with players hungry with desire and a never say die attitude – the kind of attributes required to win against a Hearts team which always seems more committed in these matches.
In order to secure victory Hibs will have to win key individual battles on the day. Vital Hibs have a look at four they need to win to win the war.
Leigh Griffiths v Webster/Zaliuskas
SPL top scorer v the meanest back four. Griffiths will have to be at his sharpest if Hibs are to end their barren run against their biggest foes.
Having not scored in two games the lifelong Hibee will be keen to get on the scoresheet against a side he loathes. He scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Easter Road earlier this season and will hope to do the same again.
Griffiths may well find success if Hibs employ the tactics of Celtic and miss out the middle two with cross balls and preying in between centre half and full backs – a play which brought about two of the Hoops goals during the week.
Webster lacks pace so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see ‘Sparky’ play on his shoulder whilst Zaliuskas is prone to errors of judgement and could gift the home side free kicks in dangerous areas.
David Wotherspoon v Kevin McHattie
Wotherspoon can blow hot and cold but faces an inexperienced full back who looked a little exposed during the Jambo’s clash with Celtic.
If Spoony can perform as he can he could prove to be a thorn in the flesh of McHattie who has only featured in a handful of first team games for the Gorgie outfit.
Andy Driver/Jamie Walker v Alan Maybury
Maybury has been seen as the weakest link in the Hibs side over the past few games and Hibees will hope his lack of pace won’t be exposed by either Driver or an impressive looking youngster in Jamie Walker.
The former Jambo will hope to produce a better display than his last against his former side when he gifted Driver a goal just half an hour into his Hibs debut.
Likely to be playing at right back due to Tim Clancy’s on-going injury problems, Maybury will be looking for Wotherspoon to help track either players runs ahead of him.
Tom Taiwo/Jorge Claros v Barr/McGowan/Holt
Hibs central midfield pairing will go up against Darren Barr and possibly two others so we’ve plumped for the two who started against Celtic although both were forced to leave the field carrying injuries.
It’s imperative Hibs seize control of the game in the middle of the park where they’ve often been over run and it would be no surprise to see Paul Cairney in the battleground to give his team-mates a helping hand.
Claros is without doubt the most improved player at the club this season and could put his horrific cup final performance to bed if he continues in the same vein on Sunday.
Taiwo has slowly gained match fitness and is now producing determined performances week in week out – a must for any derby.
The Jambo’s seem to be lacking experience in the middle of the park. Hibs have to boss them from the first minute, it’s just a pity this match has possibly came a week too early for the tenacious Gary Deegan.
Potentially the biggest boost for Hibs would be the return of James McPake. If the captain was to make it, his experience and motivational skills would be an enormous bonus.
Missing the last 4 SPL matches with a back injury, manager Pat Fenlon has stated he’s likely to miss out although he is training, the former Livingston player’s return would be a welcome one.