Paul Heckingbottom insists Hibs’ rich vein of form is ‘no fluke’ as the Leith side attempt to boost their Europa League hopes with victory over Celtic on Sunday.
Hibs are yet to experience a league defeat under head coach Heckingbottom, with the Easter Road side collecting 20 points from a possible 24 since the former Leeds United boss was appointed Neil Lennon’s successor on February 13.
The only defeat came in a Scottish Cup loss to Celtic last month but Heckingbottom, whose team are six points adrift of third place Kilmarnock and an automatic European berth, insists their recent points-haul is merited.
He said: “It’s no fluke, it’s hard work and the players are really buying into what I’ve asked of them.
“If you do that, you can’t ask for any more; everyone giving 100 per cent, doing what is asked of them and if it works, fantastic.
“If it doesn’t, you can protect them and pat them on them on the back for trying it. That will be our approach for as long as I’m here.
“We’re performed really well up until this point, looking at the points we’ve collected it’s been fantastic and now we’re doing it under a different sort of pressure at the back end of the season against the teams who we want to be competing against next year.
“And these five games will tell us exactly where we are.”
James Forrest and Scott Brown strikes earned the Hoops a 2-0 victory at Easter Road in the cup but Heckingbottom believes the gulf in quality between the sides can be bridged.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Heckingbottom, whose team came from behind to beat city rivals Hearts in their last outing, added: “We didn’t play poorly in that game, we did lots of thing really, really well and I thought Celtic were very good.
“They defended well and limited us to very few chances and we did the same, but two real moments of quality saw them win 2-0.
“That is the challenge in front of us. We played well in that game and so did they but we have to play better in this game if we’re going to stand a chance.”