‘Really important week’ ahead for Hibernian after derby win

Hibs ended a nine-game winless run against city rivals Hearts, which stretched back to December 2019.

‘Really important week’ ahead for Lee Johnson’s Hibernian after derby win SNS Group

Lee Johnson has told his Hibernian players not to allow the euphoria of their long-awaited Edinburgh derby triumph to distract them from securing a top-six place.

Hibs ended a nine-game winless run against city rivals Hearts, which stretched back to December 2019, when Kevin Nisbet scored the only goal of Saturday’s Easter Road showdown.

Despite the victory nudging Johnson’s side closer to the fourth-placed Jambos and fifth-placed St Mirren in the race for a European spot, Hibs remain just one point ahead of Livingston with one game to play before the cinch Premiership split.

To remain in the top six, Hibs must ensure their points return from Saturday’s visit to St Johnstone is not bettered by Livi’s in their match at Dundee United.

“It was three points, same as it would have been last week if we’d won at Dundee United,” said Johnson of his team’s wildly-celebrated derby win.

“Although it was bigger than that (three points) from the club’s perspective, the league table says we need to secure top six first and then we’ll try to catch everybody else.

“We did a few scouting trips last weekend, mixed up the staff – a couple went to see Hearts, I went to see St Johnstone. We have to prepare for going there next, we can’t spend too long enjoying the derby win because it’s a really important week.”

Johnson is not getting fixated on third place as Aberdeen are currently seven points clear of Hibs but he believes his team will have a good chance of securing European qualification if they can maintain the intensity they showed in their win over Hearts.

He said: “Every time Aberdeen win, like they did on Friday, it makes it a little bit more difficult (to get third) but there’s potentially fourth and fifth available for Europe.

“Really, I just want consistency of that intensity in performance and if we get that then I think the results will end up coming to us.”

Beleaguered Hearts, meanwhile, are waiting to learn the extent of an injury that could end Michael Smith’s season.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman – who is out of contract in the summer – pulled up in agony just two minutes into Saturday’s derby and hobbled off to be replaced by Nathaniel Atkinson.

Caretaker manager Steven Naismith admitted afterwards that it does not look good for Smith, leaving Hearts – who have now lost six games on the spin in all competitions – facing the prospect of being without their first-choice right-back as they bid to salvage something from their rapidly-unravelling campaign.

“To come off so early in the game, it’s obviously going to be a bad one,” Naismith said.

“We won’t know for about 48 hours but I would imagine it’s not just a tight hammy.”

Hearts are already missing several key players due to long-term injury, including Craig Gordon, Craig Halkett, Liam Boyce and Beni Baningime.

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