Paul Heckingbottom insists the Edinburgh derby is the “perfect game” to kick-start Hibernian’s Ladbrokes Premiership campaign.
The under-fire Hibs boss saw his side slump to a 2-0 defeat at Kilmarnock to make it just one win in their last 10 league outings.
The only saving grace for the Easter Road outfit is that city rivals Hearts are in worse shape ahead of next Sunday’s derby, propping up the Ladbrokes Premiership and with fans protesting outside Tynecastle at Craig Levein’s stewardship following their defeat to Motherwell.
Heckingbottom experienced two Edinburgh derbies last season, winning one and drawing the other, and claims he relishes them so much he would have them every week.
But he knows his under-performing players must stand up and be counted if they are to halt their slump and secure a morale-boosting win.
Heckingbottom said: “This game (Edinburgh derby) takes care of itself. It’s still only three points and still only September, I’m bothered about where we are at the end of the season, the bigger picture.
“But it’s the perfect game for me. If I’m saying we need to be much stronger, mentally tougher, more aggressive, more disciplined, it’s the perfect game.
“An Edinburgh derby is perfect, we had two last season and I loved them, I’d have one every week.
“There is no hiding place for anyone, so for me I can’t wait.
“We’ve got the best game next and the team I pick will reflect that – stronger, more aggressive, that’s what we need to be.
“I’m looking forward to the game. There’s no hiding place for players. We had two Edinburgh derbies last season and regardless of how we were playing we played well in both.
“Things change because of the ferocity of the game and you have to stand up and you learn a lot about your players.”
Hibs were found wanting at Rugby Park as Kilmarnock secured back-to-back wins for the first time under new manager Angelo Alessio.
Second-half goals from Liam Millar and Mohamed El Makrini secured a deserved three points for Killie.
Alessio endured a difficult start after succeeding Steve Clarke in the managerial hot-seat, with a Europa League exit to Connah’s Quay Nomads and then opening their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign with back-to-back defeats.
But they are now unbeaten in their last four games, winning three of them, and Alessio believes his players now have a better understanding of his methods.
Asked if he has now made his mark on the team, Alessio said: “Yes but now the market is finished, finally. We know the players we have after some months.
“The players here and the new players, they have time now. The last day of the market we took players and they have to get to understand our football style.
“I am happy because I saw a good attitude and ability and this is important to reach a good result.”
Kilmarnock have kept four consecutive clean sheets, and Alessio added: “I think this team deserves it because we now have good compartments, a solid team and we work hard every week.
“I know only this way to reach good results.”
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