BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
David Gray insists Hibernian not only have Hearts in their sights in next week’s Scottish Cup – but also in the Premiership.
Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Tynecastle was the fourth time this season Hibs have faced top-flight opposition in the cups, and they remain undefeated.
Wins over Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone have earned them a crack at Ross County in the League Cup final next month, whilst they will now take on Hearts for a second time in nine days in next Tuesday’s Scottish Cup replay at Easter Road.
Gray believes Hibs’ confidence will be ‘sky-high’ for that eagerly-awaited rematch.
But, with head coach Alan Stubbs maintaining promotion back to the Premiership is the number one priority this season, the skipper is adamant the Easter Road outfit have more long-term goals.
He said: “We’re in a real good place at the minute and it’s not a case of worrying about the games coming up but more about enjoying them and looking forward to them, because confidence is sky-high.
“We’re definitely (optimistic). We know it’s going to be a very tricky tie – that was shown on Sunday. It was played at a real high intensity, with a lot of tackles flying in.
“I expect the replay to be very similar and hopefully we can play like we did and get through to the next round.
“But we’re fully expecting a really tough test again, because Hearts are a really good side.
“They’re doing really well in the Premiership; they’re where we want to be. We want to be competing at the top end of the Premiership and we feel we’ve got the players in the dressing-room to do that.
“The whole infrastructure at the club is pushing towards that.
“So, we know we’re in for a really tough game and it’s one we’re really looking forward to.”
Despite an impressive start to the tie, Hibs had to battle until the 91st minute to regain parity at Tynecastle after conceding first-half goals to Arnaud Djoum and Sam Nicholson.
Paul Hanlon’s injury-time equaliser, after Jason Cummings’ header 10 minutes from time, was rich reward for a defiant second-half display.
And Gray believes he and his team-mates must be prepared to go for even longer next Tuesday if they are to book their place in the quarter-finals.
“We’ve shown that three or four times this season, scoring really late goals,” Gray told the BBC.” We just try to keep playing our football and we keep going and keep going.
“It was a great header from Jason that put us back into it and, luckily enough, we still had enough time to push on again.
“It just shows the character and determination in the dressing room at the minute, and the real team spirit we’ve got.
“Cup games are always the same, you never know what way they can go. You get nothing for second prize in these games.
“So, it’s a case of everyone giving absolutely everything they’ve got. It doesn’t matter how the game goes, you just need to keep going and keep going.
“This game’s gone now, though, and we need to look forward to the replay. It’s another 90 minutes or maybe even more, depending on how the game goes.”