Having lifted the Ladbrokes Championship title by 11 points last term, Hibernian looked well set for life in the top flight again.
But few would have expected Neil Lennon’s side to be quite this impressive. As it stands, they’re in third place – just two points behind Aberdeen.
And it’s quite possible they’ll leapfrog the Dons in the next few weeks. While Derek McInnes’ men have wobbled a bit in recent weeks, the Hibees are looking for a fifth win on the trot against St Johnstone this weekend. And there’s reason to believe their good run can keep on going. Here’s why…
Well-oiled machine firing up front
No fewer than three strikers have netted five goals or more for Hibs this season, with Simon Murray topping the club’s charts with 10. Elsewhere, the likes of John McGinn and Fraser Murray have chipped in with a few vital goals apiece from midfield.
Hibs’ striking success looks certain to continue, with Lennon having put together a very well-balanced frontline. The pacy and tenacious Simon Murray has benefited from playing alongside the tricky Martin Boyle, who has set up four of the former Dundee United man’s 10 goals this term.
The tricky Boyle also knows how to unlock a defence from the off, scoring just 63 seconds into the club’s last game, a 2-1 victory over Dundee. Meanwhile, when an experienced competitor is needed, Lennon tends to turn to Anthony Stokes, who offers both clinical finishing and a more physical, competitive edge.
Defensive unit beginning to click
Despite failing to keep a clean sheet in their first six Premiership games, Hibs now have the division’s fourth-best defensive record. Things seemed to click overnight, with the Leith outfit conceding just four goals in their past seven league games – with three of those coming against the Dons and Celtic.
Captain Paul Hanlon and Efe Ambrose have now built a good understanding at the centre of defence. In the club’s last away fixture, the Cabbage won 1-0, limiting hosts Motherwell to just four shots all game.
Having also recorded shut-outs against the likes of Heart of Midlothian and Ross County in recent weeks, their upcoming opponents are hardly likely to rack up the goals. Especially as…
Head-to-Heads and opposition struggles bode well
At any other time in the Tommy Wright era, a clash with St. Johnstone would have represented a very tough test. But the Saints have been unusually out-of-sorts lately. In fact, they’ve failed to score in six successive games – picking up a single point in the process.
Hibs have tended to enjoy good results against another of their upcoming opponents, Partick Thistle. The Jags have won just one of the past 10 Head-to-Heads at Firhill, while the last meeting – at Easter Road in August – ended with a comfortable 3-1 victory for the Edinburgh outfit.
On current form, the toughest test will likely come away to Hamilton Academical. Martin Canning’s men However, Accies have an Achilles heel – conceding late goals. They’ve led and gone on to lose five times this term, and would likely be susceptible to the pace and energy of players like Simon Murray and Brandon Barker.
Meanwhile, the 7/1 on Lennon’s men in this season’s Betting Without Celtic market looks generously priced.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing