Neil Lennon may be known as a hard taskmaster but the Hibs manager was spreading goodwill to his men yesterday and admitted he was too hard on his troops in the wake of the Edinburgh club’s Pittodrie pummelling.

The Hibees, who had pushed Rangers hard in midweek, sagged to a 4-1 defeat at rejuvenated Aberdeen and prompted Lennon to lambast his players and suggest they would have struggled to beat Cowdenbeath.

Lennon’s sense of anger and disappointment was understandable but, at a time of year for reflection, he is looking back with a calm sense of realism and perspective.

In their first season back in the top flight, Hibernian have made a stout account of themselves. They are fourth in the table, they have pushed Celtic hard in the league and a Betfred Cup semi-final and they have won at Ibrox. All in all, it’s been a fine return to the upper echelons.

Lenny said: “Maybe I need to take a step back and not be so harsh on them. I’ve not seen the players since the weekend and I thought I would give them a few days away from me and vice versa.

“I’m very, very happy. We’ve been promoted, it has been a very good year and there is more to come from this team. It has been better than I expected. You get to the point where perhaps you set your sights too high. We got brought down to earth with a bump on Saturday.

“On reflection, I was too hard on the players when you consider how much they put into the game on Wednesday against Rangers, then they travelled to Aberdeen on the Friday for a 12.30pm kick-off at Aberdeen. They looked really leggy, which was maybe a reaction to three tough games in six days.

“They were outstanding in the two games against Celtic and Rangers and then there was a flatness against Aberdeen, who played very, very well. All you’re looking for is a reaction now. I’m sure I’ll get one. We’re playing some really good football, albeit Aberdeen was a reality check. Sometimes that’s good for a team.”

Talking of reality checks, some observers, commentators and pundits suggested that Lennon’s old team, Celtic, were also served with a hefty dose of it with the 4-0 thumping against Hearts which ended their historic unbeaten domestic run which extended to 69 games. Lennon was having none of that assumption, though. “It was always going to happen at some stage, wasn’t it?,” he responded. “They’re human beings and we’ll probably never see 70 games unbeaten in my lifetime. Sometimes a reality check in terms of Celtic is a bit unfair because they have been setting a really high standard for such a long, long time and they’re probably just physically and mentally tired. You’ve got to give credit to Hearts as well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence and they also performed with great enthusiasm and energy. For once Celtic didn’t have the answers for the first time in a long, long time. Celtic will win the title. I know Aberdeen have found their form again so that game should be very interesting to watch but Celtic will win the league. They are still the best team in the country by a considerable distance.”