Lennon wants to challenge Aberdeen and Rangers for second

The Hibernian boss says they are ahead of schedule since returning to the Premiership.

Neil Lennon was left fired up after his side's win in Glasgow. SNS

Neil Lennon says his Hibernian side are ahead of schedule on their Scottish Premiership return and now he wants them to push Aberdeen and Rangers for second spot.

The Easter Road outfit spent three years out of the top-flight but have been steadily improving since clinching promotion in the summer.

And they have now moved to within a point of becoming Celtic's nearest challengers by beating Partick Thistle 1-0 at Firhill.

Lennon expected his team to be in the hunt for fourth place but ahead of a huge run of fixtures that sees them take on each of the top three in the space of just six days, he believes they should now be looking higher.

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"I think we're ahead of our target so far, I must say," said the Northern Irishman. "I did think it would be Celtic leading the way then Aberdeen and Rangers next, with a fight then for the rest of the places.

"We want to break into that second bracket so we have given ourselves a good chance nearly half way through the season.

"So I think we are ahead of schedule. I'm more than pleased with the character in the team and the quality of football we're playing."

Lennon may have been pleased with his team's display at Firhill but there was little spark to a gritty contest that was decided just after half-time by Adam Barton's own goal.

Hibs had toiled during a drab first half and Lennon strode out on the pitch following his half-time team-talk to deliver one last rally cry just before the action resumed.

And it had the desired effect, with Lewis Stevenson luring Barton into a mistake as he fired the ball into the box from deep, with the midfielder's header creeping inside Tomas Cerny's post.

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But Lennon said: "I think they may have responded more to what I said in the dressing room.

"I thought we were in the ascendancy the last 20 minutes of the first half. But you don't win games on possession and territory.

"We looked a little bit tentative in front of goal and it was just not good enough. But we were better after the break.

"We needed the goal but that's now two very good performances away from home so I'm delighted."

The worry for the Thistle basement boys is they now find themselves four points adrift at the bottom after fellow strugglers Dundee and Kilmarnock both picked up wins.

But Jags boss Alan Archibald is trying to remain positive, saying: "We're not too down about it. It wasn't a poor performance by any manner of means, and we go into a massive game against Kilmarnock next week now, so we've got to take the positives.

"It's a vitally important game. We want to stay in touch with the teams with the teams round about us and it's important that we go and pick points up."

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