NEIL LENNON saw red after Hibernian’s last meeting with Aberdeen but is confident his players will be determined to avenge that ‘unacceptable’ defeat this weekend.
Lennon claimed that even Cowdenbeath, bottom of League Two, would have beaten his side that day in December, so lamentable was a ‘totally abject’ performance that led to them being ‘bullied’ by the ‘excellent’ Dons in the 4-1 loss.
It was the second time the Pittodrie outfit had got the better of Hibs this term, following on from October’s 1-0 win at Easter Road, and Lennon – whose side also lost last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final between the teams – has confessed that the depth of squad at Derek McInnes’s disposal outstrips his own.
However, knowing that victory, in their first outing since winning at Ibrox against Rangers, would lift Hibs to within five points of Aberdeen in second, Lennon is hopeful for a better outcome on Saturday.
“I don’t think it will linger but I think there will be an incentive there,” he said. “Aberdeen have beaten us the last three times we have played; to be fair there was fatigue the last time but you have to give credit to them, they were excellent.
“That was probably the best performance against us of any team this season. They were very good and they’re in good form, they’re free-scoring at the minute. So, it’s going to be a tough game, but one we are relishing.
“We played well against them here and there wasn’t much in the game, juts one real moment of quality.
“But the game at Pittodrie, I wouldn’t say it was a lesson, but we were well beaten.
“The players might want to put that right.
“The context of the game is we want to close the gap on third and second place, and I think that’s the butt of what we are talking about rather than what has gone on previously.”
After being well served by 18-year-old Ryan Porteous and diminutive left-back Lewis Stevenson at centre-back in the 2-1 win over Rangers almost a fortnight ago, Lennon will welcome Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor back from injury for the visit of Aberdeen, which is heading for a 20,000 sell-out.
And, after flourishing in adversity at Ibrox, the Hibs manager believes his players will face a difficult task in trying to get the better of the Dons.
“They were asked a lot at Ibrox, particularly in the second half,” he added. “Rangers were playing well, they had new players, they’re on the up.
“But I thought for an hour we were superb. A draw might have been a fair result but, with the chances we had in the first-half, we could have been out of sight, and to go and play that well at Ibrox takes some doing.
“Aberdeen are a different animal. They are strong and athletic all over the pitch and they can hurt you from the wide areas as well.
“They’re maybe not as open as Celtic and Rangers. Derek can be quite pragmatic as well, so it’s another difficult test for us. They’re a formidable opponent at this level.”