Fenlon remembers 'surreal' day

Pat Fenlon returns to the scene of his first appointment as Hibernian manager at St Johnstone on Wednesday eager for his side to show how far they have progressed in his first year in charge.

The Irishman this week celebrated his first anniversary at Easter Road and returns to McDiarmid Park, where, a day after being installed as Colin Calderwood's successor last November, he watched Hibs fall to a 3-1 loss.

"It was a bit surreal, because I was in the stand and I didn't have charge of the team," said Fenlon, reflecting on his first visit to McDiarmid Park, when then assistant Billy Brown was in charge of the team. "It's been eventful, that's for certain. It's been enjoyable."

Hibs will seek to respond from successive Clydesdale Bank Premier League losses to Dundee and Aberdeen by claiming victory in Perth. And Fenlon added: "I think we've improved the team since we've come in. That's what we came in to do and hopefully to continue doing that.

"After the weekend we're disappointed, but we're very encouraged by the performance. If we get to the level of performance that we had on Saturday hopefully that's enough."

Lewis Stevenson is only 24, but is Hibs' longest-serving player and praised Fenlon's influence following an eventful 12 months which included a successful relegation battle and a William Hill Scottish Cup final loss to Edinburgh rivals Hearts.

Stevenson said: "It's hard to say the difference because it's been two different seasons. When he first came in he had to change things around quickly and we managed to stay up and we got to the cup final.

"This season's really showed the changes have worked. It's the best team spirit we've had in years, there's a great work ethic as well. Even the game on Saturday, we got beaten, but the fans knew we gave our all and they clapped us off the pitch, which is totally different to seasons gone by."

Sunday sees the tantalising prospect of a cup final replay, Hibs and Hearts drawn against each other for the fourth round as the SPL clubs enter the competition for the first time this season. Stevenson is again set to operate at left-back, with captain James McPake (back) and right-back Tim Clancy (groin) out.

McPake is a major doubt for Sunday's derby, too. Fenlon said: "He's sore at the moment. He'll definitely miss out on Wednesday and I'd imagine he'll miss out on Sunday as well."