BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
LIAM FONTAINE is adamant Dundee United boss Ray McKinnon has another thing coming if he expects Hibs to “crumble” in the Championship title race.
The United boss suggested the pressure of a third season attempting to escape the second tier could be a millstone around the Hibees’ neck as the Tayside outfit hit their stride.
Ahead of last week’s televised top-of-the-table clash between the teams, McKinnon noted the “weight of expectation on them” and stated “they might crumble” as he cranked up the mind games.
United went on to claim a 1-0 win over Neil Lennon’s men, albeit the contest hinged on two penalty kicks – one missed by Martin Boyle and one consummately tucked away by Tony Andreu.
However, Fontaine has brushed aside the notion that McKinnon’s cheeky prediction will come to fruition.
“Will we crumble? No,” Fontaine said firmly. “I don’t really read anything from other people, to be honest. People say what they have to say – to get a reaction from certain people and pump people up, whatever – and you just have to get on with it.
“All we can do – all we care about – is worry about us and what we do. If Dundee United put a run together, then they put a run together. But come the end of the season we will see who has been most consistent.
“I’m not surprised by United’s form at all. They are going to be a good football team, because they are a good club. But I genuinely just get on with what we are doing. We have been on a great run and it’s only one game we’ve been below par.
“We haven’t lost many and they’ve done well themselves. That’s all there is to it. We’ll just get on with the season.”
Asked whether seeing a seven-point lead over United in mid-September wiped out could spark a degree of nervousness, he continued: “I don’t agree with that at all. It’s not happening, we are doing well. We are putting points on the board.”
After experiencing a fraught title battle with Rangers last season, as well as two successive seasons of playoff pain, Fontaine has a sense of perspective about the race back to the Premiership.
With more than five months still to play, and two more encounters against Dundee United still to come, he is adamant Hibs are remaining cool and composed about their current position.
Fontaine does concede last Friday’s showing at Tannadice was below par, but fully expects a response when beleaguered Dumbarton, fresh from an embarrassing Scottish Cup exit against Bonnyrigg Rose, visit Easter Road today.
He continued: “It is still very early in the season. Against Dundee United, I thought we were lower than the standard we set in previous games. Even saying that, we were well in the game and it ends up being about two penalties.
“We go away from that game, we learn from it, and we go again. We set our standard, and the gaffer demands that of us – and we’ll get back there this weekend.
“There are so many points still to play for. Once we get back to the level we have set – and we have to play Dundee United again two more times this season – we’ll be ready to pick up those points.
“Obviously it is important for us to bounce back and get another three points on the board – just get on with the rest of the season.”