BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hibs defender Paul Hanlon insists the Championship title fight with Rangers is more fierce than ever ahead of their upcoming top of the table clash at Ibrox.
Saturday’s last-gasp point against Falkirk felt like a win for the Leith side after they had to see out the dying stages with nine men.
It was a different story in Govan as Rangers, who are three points clear, were left raging that they dropped points for the third league game in five matches in a draw with Morton.
And just weeks after being told the title race was over, former Scotland Under-21 internationalist Hanlon insists they are relishing the race for the chequered flag ahead of crunch matches against Queen of the South and Rangers either side of Christmas.
Hanlon, who helped promote Saturday’s foodbank collection, said: “This is what a title race is about. A few weeks ago before we beat Rangers it was over. We get beat, it’s over.
“Now it’s right on, they’ve had a few sticky results and it’s about being their to capitalise.
“We always believed that they wouldn’t go the whole season unbeaten.
“We knew that they would drop points. We never managed to close the gap at the weekend but when you look back at the game it was a point gained.
“The title push is great to be involved in. There’s a lot of pressure in every game.
“I’m sure most of the players in the squad prefer it that way. You want to be under pressure.
“We’ve not had any doubts in our confidence because of that Falkirk result. Mentally it’s probably good for us.
“We’ve got big game at the weekend against Queen of the South, then we go to Ibrox. If we can do well in both of those games, it’s right on isn’t it?”
Hanlon, who actually played in midfield against the Bairns, made his Hibs debut back in January 2008 and admits he has never been happier.
Hanlon added: “This is the best Hibs team that I have ever been in.
“Ability wise and personality wise we are a tight squad.
“This is a great place to be and all the players love coming into training in the morning.
“It is a great laugh although we are serious about the big job that we have at hand.”
Hanlon, meanwhile, admits John McGinn will be a miss in the next two matches if the midfielder’s red card from the weekend is not overturned.
He added: “It would be a massive blow if he was to miss out on Ibrox, you saw what he was like in the last game against Rangers.
“Everyone still mentions that performance when we beat Rangers last month. I scored the winner but everyone still talks about John McGinn’s performance.
“He was great in that game, it was one of those performances that will stick with him.
“He bossed the whole game, his energy and drive that he brings to the squad is great.”