BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEIL LENNON has seen his teams rack up an astonishing 15 goals on their previous two Scottish Cup visits to Tynecastle.
However, the Hibs gaffer knows his next trip to Gorgie will be too close to call as he prepares for a derby clash that he reckons will be every bit as intense as the Old Firm.
Lennon embarked on a spying mission on Wednesday night, taking his place in the crowd to watch Hearts defeat Raith Rovers in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, downing the plucky Fifers 4-2 after extra-time.
That booked a mouth-watering Edinburgh derby in the last-16.
Tynecastle and Lennon may always evoke memories of the infamous attack on the former Celtic boss by a Hearts supporter in 2011 – however, on the pitch, it has been an extraordinarily happy hunting ground in cup competition for the Northern Irishman.
The last away match he ever oversaw in the Scottish Cup as manager of the Hoops came against Hearts as he guided them to a 7-0 win over the Jambos. Lennon’s Hibs side went one better this season by hammering Bonnyrigg Rose 8-1.
“These are slightly different circumstances!” he smiled. “It would be nice to get another seven or eight – but I’m not sure that will be feasible!
“No, I like the ground, I like the atmosphere there and I’m sure this will be as raucous as anything I have experienced before.
“The psychological lift of the Scottish Cup win has been tremendous for the fans, and the support they have given us in the Championship has been unbelievable. So, we are the cup holders and we want to defend it as strongly as possible.
“It wouldn’t have mattered who we got, or what round, you need to beat everyone if you want to win it.”
Lennon, of course, is no stranger to a fraught derby day. As a fiery midfield general for Celtic, he was at the heart of Old Firm clashes against Rangers for the best part of seven years and rarely shied away from the hype and ferocity of the fixture.
He then spent four years as Hoops boss, with one fixture against the Gers infamously ending with him squaring up to his Ibrox counter-part Ally McCoist six years ago.
And Lennon admits he cannot wait to see what the Edinburgh version has got to offer.
He continued: “I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Edinburgh derby. Every great derby has its own sub-plots and signature. This one is no different. It is intense and reflects a great rivalry between the sides.
“The hype surrounding the Old Firm is global, whereas this is more contained to a big city. But I am sure it will be just as intense and it will mean as much to the fans as any other derby around the world.”
However, Lennon is loathe to look beyond this weekend’s Championship clash against Queen of the South.
He added: “It’s really important that we keep winning games in the league; far more important than any Cup tie at the minute.
“However, two things can help each other, a good cup run can always build momentum. Stubbsy [Alan Stubbs] might say it was a bit of a hindrance last season, with the amount of games they had, but I think if we have a decent cup run then it will build confidence.”
On the hopes of re-signing Kris Commons on loan, Lennon also stated: “There’s no further movement either way on that. We are still optimistic and we are still in the hunt.
“I’ve not spoken to his representatives in a couple of days so we are still waiting on him getting back to us.
“If we get him we get him and if we don’t, we don’t. We would like him obviously but if we don’t get him then I’m pretty happy with the quality of player I’ve got in forward areas. We are looking to bring one or two in other areas as well.”