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Past defeats are so last year at Easter Road

The Edinburgh derby has become a little unsettling for Hibernian.

Hibs have lost the two derbies this term but have impressed more recently
Hibs have lost the two derbies this term but have impressed more recently

When Ben Williams sat down to discuss the topic earlier this week the Hibs goalkeeper would at first raised a hand to his lips, as though the prospect of a meeting with Hearts today had provoked a gag reflex. It was more likely a reaction to some mild indigestion but the fixture has tended to leave those at Easter Road feeling much greener than usual, the most recent derby causing Pat Fenlon's off-colour spell in charge to expire.

The sniggering from across the city has hardly helped Hibs to feel any better. This season had started with far brighter intentions since European football had returned to Leith as well as a tender optimism about what could be achieved in the SPFL Premiership, although any notion of stopping to smell the roses would be overwhelmed by the whiff of manure. Hibs' form in derbies this season has stunk, too, a defeat in the Scottish League Cup following a loss in the league.

Hearts supporters will perhaps have been leering over the fence at their neighbours ahead of their latest venture across the city then, but Williams is intent on leaving past results to fertilise the hyacinths. It is an idea which has flowered during the nascent tenure of manager Terry Butcher and also since language expert and trained counsellor David Yeoman has been enlisted by the club. Both have encouraged the Hibs players to approach today's derby in a positive frame of mind, unburdened by unsuccessful meetings with their city rivals.

Derbies are rooted in history but the motivation of players need not be, with Williams dismissing the suggestion that Hibs have a chance to avenge their defeats from earlier in the campaign. "You can't get caught up in revenge," said the Hibs goalkeeper. "I just feel it's never good to focus on a negative feeling going into a game. And revenge is negative. You play each other so often in football, all teams, that being motivated by having lost to a particular side would leave you forever running round in circles, trying to avenge this or that result.

"The way to go into this game is just to have confidence, know that we're performing well - we've only conceded two goals in seven games - and really focus on the good things, the positive feelings. If we approach the game like we did against Kilmarnock on Sunday [which ended in a 3-0 win for Hibs] and put in the same effort, the result will take care of itself. Our aim is to win the game, please the fans and send everyone home happy."

It is a reasonable New Year's resolution and one which Hibs seem more capable of fulfilling under the guidance of Butcher. The Edinburgh side has lost just once under the Englishman - a 1-0 defeat by Celtic - with three victories and three draws comprising an encouraging run of form under the manager. "The improved mood comes with results," added Williams. "Footballers thrive on confidence and self-belief. When that's there, they play much better.

"It's a simple formula, but it's not easy to pull off. It's difficult when you dominate as much as we did [in the League Cup tie against Hearts], then concede a sucker punch, if you like. Our team before, we probably struggled to deal with that. But this team, the way it is, the self-belief that is there, we've shown that we can take things in our stride."

Tim Clancy has proven adept at moving on, since the Hibs defender is close to signing for Derry City after falling out of favour. It is fair to assume that Ryan Stevenson will not find himself in a similar situation for some time, given that he scored the decisive goal in the last derby. The Hearts forward played with his knee strapped heavily as he expedited his return from injury and finds himself in a similar situation today. Stevenson is expected to feature at Easter road again despite tearing his hamstring earlier this month. He had initially been ruled out for six weeks but has recovered in time to face Hibs.

"Hopefully this derby ends the same way for us," said Stevenson. "Things in derbies can happen out of the blue, the same as it did in the last one. We rode the storm for half an hour, then we go up the park, score a goal and everything changes.

"I still like watching that goal [although] I think everybody else is sick of hearing about it. It was probably my favourite derby memory because I was coming back from injury and I wasn't 100% fit, and because we rode the storm for 30 minutes then went back up the park and scored. Everything was against us at that stage, the same as it will be this time."

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