Hibs manager John Hughes is relishing the chance to lead his side into a continental adventure after a 2-0 win at Dundee United secured a place in the Europa League.
Colin Nish netted twice to give Hibs victory at Tannadice yesterday and guarantee a fourth-place finish for the Easter Road men thanks to Motherwell’s 3-3 draw with Rangers at Ibrox.
Nish broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a shot that United keeper Dusan Pernis should have saved.
The Hibs attacker scored his second with a diving header after 72 minutes.
Hughes felt his players merited finishing fourth and said he was pleased his players managed to achieve their Europa League aim with a clean sheet after conceding six in their thrilling midweek draw at Fir Park.
He said: “It has been a fantastic season and I think the players have deserved fourth spot. We have played some great stuff throughout the season and we have always had goals in our team.
“The most pleasing thing is getting the fourth spot which guarantees European football but I was also delighted we kept a clean sheet after what happened during the week.
“I thought we defended bravely and our goalkeeper Graeme Smith looked assured when it was a real test of his character.
“I think Dundee United may have had one eye on the Scottish Cup next week and I can understand but we still had to do the business.
“I’m delighted for the players and the staff for all their hard work and the supporters who have something to look forward to next year.”
Hughes wants his players to maintain their high standards next season.
He added: “What we have done this season raises expectations but you need to be big enough to handle it if you are at a club such as Hibernian.
“We always want to be playing for the third and fourth spots and push the Old Firm as much as we can as well as be looking to win a cup.”
Dundee United manager Peter Houston said he was not concerned his side’s impressive league campaign ended in defeat.
He said: “We have to credit our players as our job of finishing third was completed three or four weeks ago.
“For us to not to have a great end to the season, but still finish nine points ahead of the team in fourth is credit to the players.
“We have had a great season and it hasn’t finished yet.
“The fact we have been in a position in the last three or four weeks where we knew we couldn’t finish lower than third means we have done well throughout the season.
“I have nothing but praise for our players.
“It doesn’t matter we have lost going into a cup final because we will be at it 100% next week.”
Houston made six changes for the visit of Hibs with next week’s Scottish Cup final with Ross County in mind but the United manager was not worried about angering Motherwell who missed out on a guaranteed place in Europe to the Easter Road side.
He added: “I don’t care what other people think.
“A few weeks ago against Rangers I made six changes and drew 0-0 and I made six changes before another of our recent matches.
“The good thing for me was we have had three games in a week and we have been able to give guys a rest ahead of next week.
“We have looked after ourselves in the league and it is up to other teams to look after themselves.”