NEIL Lennon is convinced Sunday’s Edinburgh derby proved Hibs will not be bullied by city rivals Hearts any more.
The Easter Road men stood up to the challenge posed by their on-form Premiership hosts in a feisty goalless draw in the Scottish Cup fifth round.
In the past, the men in green have been accused of failing the physical test against their sworn enemies.
However, Lennon, never one to take a step back himself as a player, was happy to see his side match their opponents in the battle – both in mind and body – to set up next Wednesday’s replay.
He said: “The last time Hearts played at home they beat Rangers 4-1, so we were up against a pretty good team.
“They backed their manager in a big way in January, which is their prerogative.
“But we negated them. I thought defensively and in midfield we were superb at times, and I didn’t think there was anything between the teams.
“You can see the psychological shift between the two clubs.
“Hibs are strong now. Hearts are strong, but in years gone by they were the dominant team and that’s not the case any more.”
Hibs’ next challenge is to try to strengthen their grip on top spot in the Championship.
Although they do not want to relinquish their grip on the Scottish Cup they finally won after 114 years last May, Lennon and his players have insisted promotion back to the top-flight remains the priority.
After Dundee United crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Falkirk at the weekend, the Easter Road men still have a six-point lead at the summit, with a game in hand.
With United in Irn-Bru Cup action this weekend, they now face a tricky trip to take on Raith Rovers and their new manager John Hughes, the former Hibs boss.
Lennon added to Hibs TV: “We’ve got to focus on Raith Rovers now. We’ve got an opportunity to extend the lead at the top of the table, and if we can do that then that gives us confidence going in to the replay.”
• Meanwhile, next week’s replay is heading for a 20,000 sell-out after Hibs supporters snapped up every spare ticket for the Scottish Cup tie within minutes of them going on sale.
Around 4,500 briefs were made available to fans at 10 am on Tuesday and were snapped up ‘within the hour’.
Supporters with season tickets now have until Saturday at 3 pm to secure their own seats for the eagerly-anticipated fifth round clash as Hibs seek a repeat of last year’s replay success on their way to finally lifting the trophy.
Any briefs not taken up by season-ticket holders will then be made available to supporters who have not yet been able to secure a ticket.
Hearts will begin selling to their fans on Wednesday morning and are also expected to sell out their allocation after being given the whole of the south stand.