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2 of 021 ----- L SPL A

Paatelainen says chances must be taken as he eyes first derby win

A RECORD of four derby matches without victory would place the heat on any manager, but Mixu Paatelainen labours with an added anxiety. Defeat this afternoon will leave Hibs in a struggle to finish in the top six while at the same time would further strengthen Hearts' own position in third place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
It is pressure on top of pressure for Paatelainen – something he does not need at present as he bids to douse discontent in the stands. In the Finn's favour is his side's seeming ability to salvage situations before they reach the point where action has to be taken in the boardroom.

The win at Hamilton Accies ten days ago is a case in point. A series of below par performances had led to a growing appetite for change among the fans, but the victory obtained that night helped calm feelings and bought Paatelainen more time.

The Finn expects much the same type of game today against a Hearts side fond of packing the midfield. Paatelainen set out Hibs in a way where they aimed to play their way through the forest of legs in midfield at Hamilton, and may be minded to go for the same approach today. Denes Rosa and John Rankin are set to continue their central midfield partnership. The return of Ian Murray after injury provides another welcome option.

"It is difficult (to pass the ball] against anybody," he pointed out. "It was not easy to pass the ball against Hamilton, because Hamilton have a six-man midfield. It is very crowded. I expect them (Hearts] to have a five-man midfield, and it will be difficult again. They have big solid powerful players all over, and make life very difficult. But we hope tomorrow is a good day for us in terms of passing the ball and keeping possession. We have been very up and down this season when it comes to that, but hopefully tomorrow is a good day for us."

Although Hearts have earned a reputation for being hard to beat this season, something credited to a robust defence, Paatelainen believes there are chinks in their armour which can be exploited. He claims Hearts have conceded a goal in almost ever game this season, although Hibs have only scored once against them this season. Contradicting Paatelainen's contention further is the fact Hearts have boasted three clean sheets in their past nine outings. While this does not prove they are impregnable, it does point to a certain resilience – although this was acknowledged by Paatelainen. The Easter Road manager also insists Hearts' attacking strengths have been overlooked as they have con- solidated their position in third place in the league.

"They are very difficult to break down," he said. "On the other hand, they have conceded almost in every match at least one goal, so they are not impossible to break down. They are also good attacking-wise and have some fantastic individual players going forward. They have plenty pace, power and height and everything needed to create chances and put the ball in the net. We certainly need to defend well tomorrow to keep a clean sheet.

"It's important that when we get chances we take them," he continued. "I am hoping we create chances again tomorrow. And whenever we get those chances that we know how to put them away. It would be nice to put them under a little pressure. And like I say the other end of the pitch is also very important. Like any match, both teams have their moments. They've had their moments against us and we've had ours. I expect tomorrow it will be the same."

The trick is to take advantage of such moments. This is something Hibs failed to do in the two derbies so far this year. This was particularly apparent in the Scottish Cup game at Easter Road. Steven Fletcher passed up a glorious chance to score early in the game and then saw his frustration get the better of him when red carded for a late challenge on Christophe Berra.

This bitter experience came amid a fruitless run of games for Fletcher, who finally ended his three month goal famine with the winner against Hamilton Accies earlier this month. Former centre-forward Paatelainen is alert to how confidence can act to renew a striker. There has not been any change in his demeanour since scoring, the manager pointed out. Fletcher, he said, has always been a willing trainer.

"For any striker to go through a lean spell it is worrying," he said. "He must have been kicking his heels, and disappointed that he has not scored. He scored a valuable winner last time and I hope the goals will come in a burst of five and six. I hope that he goes on a run now. But tomorrow he will face a very tough defence and it won't be easy. If the team's performance is of such a standard that we create one or two chances, then I am confident he will score."

A victory would change everything at Easter Road, and give Hibs something to hold on to as they prepare for the run-in before the league split. Given the circumstances, Paatelainen's desire to strip the afternoon of its further meaning was understandable, if optimistic.

"It's a league match first and foremost," he stated. "It is important in terms of us trying to qualify for the top six. At the end of the day it is another league match."

Taken from the Scotsman

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