Paul Heckingbottom urges Hibs players to prove they can battle the big guns after cementing top six berth

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PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM insists the mouth-watering crescendo to Hibernian’s campaign will be a litmus test for his players after the capital club secured top-six football.

A hard-fought 0-0 stalemate against Kilmarnock on Wednesday evening extended the Hibees’ unbeaten streak in the Premiership since the Englishman’s arrival, racking up five victories and two draws.

That has proved enough to ensure Hibs will be facing the big guns after the split.

And, allied with Saturday’s highly-anticipated Edinburgh derby, Heckingbottom cannot wait to see what his side are made of in the coming weeks.

He said: “I’m delighted to get top six. The players deserve a massive pat on the back. Five wins and two draws is great for and we want to build on that now – put it in the bank and move forward.

“The games get harder now and that’s what I want. If we had not got top six, then I wouldn’t have found out too much about the players. From a development point, I wanted to play the top teams again. Then I’ll know more about them.

We’ve got Hearts twice, then every other game will be against a top side. That’s what I want. Next year, we want to be competing against those sides – so let’s see where we are now. Form suggests we’re right up with them, but let’s see.”

Kilmarnock had the better of the chances at Easter Road, with Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano shining with a string of saves to deny Kris Boyd, Stuart Findlay and Kirk Broadfoot.

However, it was his sensational one-handed save from Jordan Jones in the second period which proved to be the defining moment of the match.

Heckingbottom added: “It was a really good save from Ofir. That was a moment when I feared the worst. And it was a save, it didn’t just hit him – he got a strong hand up and made the block. Those moments get you points.”