However, David Gray acknowledges the prospect of usurping Hearts courtesy of a first win at Tynecastle in six years is a
The Jambos boasted an 11-point advantage over their fiercest foes when Paul Heckingbottom officially succeeded Neil Lennon in the Easter Road hot-seat in the middle of February.
At the point, simply securing top-six football appeared an ambitious target.
However, a sensational sequence of results in the Premiership
And Gray was in no mood to underplay the importance of leapfrogging the men in maroon before eyeing the European places.
“We know we have a chance to go above them and that is all the motivation we need,” said the Hibs skipper. “To go two points above them with another game against them to come would make for an exciting time.
“We’ve got to keep asking the question and try to keep the momentum going. If we can get the three points to go above Hearts, we would then be looking to catch Aberdeen or Kilmarnock.
“A win at Tynecastle is definitely overdue.” That would seem something of an understatement.
In order to climb above Hearts, Gray and Co. will need to achieve a feat no Hibs side has managed since May 12, 2013. That was the last time the Easter Road outfit won at Tynecastle, with Ross Caldwell’s last-minute goal securing a 2-1 triumph for the Leigh Griffiths-inspired visitors.
Caldwell is now plying his trade with amateur outfit Blantyre Victoria, while the likes of Alex Harris, Jordon Forster
He added: “It’s been a while but the games we’ve had there have all been close. The team that turns up on the day and settles quickest and implements the way they want to play, more often than not, gets the result.
“We want to start the game well and really take the game to Hearts. Do we go there with the confidence we can win against Hearts? Absolutely.”
This will represent Hibs’ maiden return to Gorgie since their 0-0 draw last October which made headlines for all the wrong reasons, with Neil Lennon struck by a coin and one imbecilic supporter aiming a punch at Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal.
Since then, Scottish football has been marred by several incidences of crowd
“These games are always lively, there’s animosity, there are tackles flying in and you want to the atmosphere to be special,” continued Gray. “You want the fans to be noisy, passionate and even get on at the referee if they want. That’s all part of a derby.
“But there’s a line that it is unacceptable to cross. Everyone knows that. Hopefully, both sets of fans can get right behind their teams in the right manner – and we put in a performance that sends our fans home happy.”
Meanwhile, Gray has revealed he is ready to commit his future to the capital club, with his current contract set to expire this summer.
One suspects the negotiations should be relatively simple. Gray is adamant he has no intention of departing, while Hibs CEO Leeann Dempster stated in a recent in-house interview that the man who scored the iconic Scottish Cup-winning goal in 2016 – ending a 112-year wait for the trophy – should have a job at Easter Road for life.
“Hopefully, it’s close to being resolved,” added Gray. “I’ve been focusing on staying fit and winning games of football – but I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to leave this club. I love playing for Hibs and everything about being at this club. We’ll look to get it sorted soon.”