Nick Montgomery admitted Hearts’ 21-point advantage over Hibernian rankles with him as he challenged his side to trim the gap in Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle.

Hibernian were above their city rivals in the cinch Premiership as recently as mid-December. However, the Jambos have surged clear in third place after winning nine of their last 11 league matches, while Hibs languish in seventh place after winning only one of their last nine.

Montgomery is far from satisfied with the situation but believes the Easter Road side’s January recruitment has given them a chance to start playing catch-up on the teams above them.

“I’m not happy with the gap in points and I know the fans are not happy with the gap in points,” Montgomery said.

“The fact of the matter is Hearts went on a really good run when we went through a really tough period and lost a bit of ground.

“Every game now is an opportunity to claw points back on the opposition you’re playing and the teams above you.

“We can’t change what’s happened but we can give ourselves an opportunity to close the gap on every team above us, like we did at the weekend against Dundee.

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“We’ve brought a lot of new players in, there’s been a lot of change, and I think the quality in the squad gives us the chance to finish the season positively.

“We can’t look at the points, but we can prepare as well as we can and try to go into the game against Hearts with the right mindset that we can go there and get the result.”

Montgomery admitted Hibs will have to try to find a way of snuffing out the threat of Lawrence Shankland, the top scorer in the Premiership.

The forward has struck 53 times for Hearts in less than two seasons and has netted five goals in six Edinburgh derbies – including his stoppage-time winner in the last meeting between the teams at Easter Road in December.

“He’s one of the best strikers in the league, and his goals tell you that,” said Montgomery. “There have been plenty of games where he’s been the difference between the two teams.

“We saw that ourselves. He’s a quality player. You have to respect the opposition, the whole team, and especially individuals like him who can hurt you in key moments.

“It’s something we’ll have to concentrate on. The last game I thought we kept him quiet until that wonder strike in the 94th minute.

“He’s a top-quality player and he’s been responsible for a lot of the points they’ve accrued over the last couple of months.”