Paul Heckingbottom insists the mouth-watering finale to Hibernian’s campaign will be the litmus test for his players after securing top-six football in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
A hard-fought 0-0 stalemate against Kilmarnock extended Hibs’ unbeaten streak in the league since the Englishman’s arrival, racking up five victories and two draws.
That has proved enough to ensure the Easter Road outfit 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 and we want 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 and getting better, 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.”
Kilmarnock assistant manager Alex Dyer believed his side created enough opportunities to win the match, but acknowledged that leaving Edinburgh with a share of the spoils was a creditable outcome.
Killie are now level on 55 points with Aberdeen in third place.
“We dominated most of the game and on a different night we would have scored a few goals,” Dyer said.
“Our final ball sometimes let us down but, overall, we’re happy with the draw.”
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