Jack Ross is confident his Hibernian players will not allow themselves to get carried away by the prospect of battling Scottish Premiership giants Celtic for second place.
Hibs head into Tuesday night’s trip to St Mirren, who beat the Hoops 2-1 at Parkhead on Saturday, sitting in fourth place and just six points adrift of Neil Lennon’s men.
Celtic have won only one of their last six league games to slip 23 points behind leaders Rangers and, although they have two games in hand on both their Old Firm rivals and the men from Edinburgh, they are increasingly looking over their shoulder rather than upwards.
However, asked if second place was a realistic target, Hibs boss Ross said: “We’ve had our own internal targets that we’ve set very clearly from pre-season, so I don’t think we would veer too much away from that when we’ve been pretty consistent and steady on those goals.
“We’ve set them fairly lofty, but the players are focused toward achieving them and know that we’ll reward them should we get there, so I don’t think finding themselves in this position with the way the points are between second, third, fourth and fifth has made any significant difference.”
That said, Ross admitted that an improved run of form leading up to the split in the league – his side had won only once since Boxing Day before Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Dundee United – coupled with Celtic’s ongoing problems could put Hibs in position to attack.
He said: “In terms of how realistic it is, I think it’s still a big challenge for every club because of the resources of the top two.
“It’s not something we have spoken about, but everybody knows that if you continue to accumulate points positively between now and even the split, then we would go into that in a really competitive position.”
Ross will head to former club St Mirren with leading scorer Kevin Nisbet and defender Ryan Porteous expected to be among the squad.
The pair trained with their team-mates on Monday morning after the club rebuffed interest from Birmingham and Millwall respectively as the January transfer window drew to a close.
The manager said: “They are encouraging signs for the club that, in this period of turbulence all clubs are enduring, we can see fit to believe that we’re in a position where we don’t have to jump at offers that come in.”