Alan Stubbs has called on his buoyant team to kill off any lingering notion that playing at Easter Road is a hindrance rather than a help for Hibs.
The Hibees have had a dismal home record in recent times, with only 13 wins in 58 league matches at Easter Road over the previous three seasons under Colin Calderwood, Pat Fenlon and Terry Butcher.
Particularly poor form in the second half of last season prompted familiar talk of an Easter Road hoodoo as Hibs lost eight of their last 11 games in Leith during their slide towards the Championship.
Questions have continually been raised about whether some Hibs players can deal with the pressures of playing in front of their own support in a 20,000-seat stadium.
However, Stubbs, who arrived in the summer, is adamant that his new-look team have encountered no such problems in winning three of their four home games this season. And the head coach has challenged them to continue the process of turning Easter Road into “a fortress” by taking six points from their next two matches, at home to Raith Rovers tomorrow and then Dumbarton next weekend.
“From a results point of view, our home form has been good,” he told the Evening News. “We’ve only lost one game [against Falkirk] which we should never have lost. We’re on the right path to putting right some of the stats of the last year or so. Albeit in a different division, we’ve already won 50 per cent of the home games that we won in the league last season. We’ve got a chance now to really stamp our authority in the next two games and make Easter Road a fortress again.”
Buoyed by back-to-back away wins over Ross County and Rangers, Stubbs believes his players can really start to assert themselves in home games now. “We want to set a precedent in the opening period of games in terms of getting on the front foot, putting teams under pressure and making them know that when they come to Easter Road, it’s going to be a really intimidating and difficult place to play,” he said. “We’ve got to make our home form count, so that whatever we take away from home is the icing on the kick.
“You’ll always get a blip at home now and again. I hope the Falkirk game will prove to be our blip and we can become a dominant force at home.”
Stubbs expects wholehearted support against Raith tomorrow. He added: “I’ve always felt the fans have been good in home games. They stuck with us against Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath when we turned the games round to win 3-2. Even against Falkirk, when they had every right to be frustrated at the chances we were missing, they stuck with us. Against Livingston, we had a comfortable lead but let them back into the game and it got a bit edgy. We have to keep giving the fans belief and I’m sure they’ll have taken a lot of heart from the last couple of away games.”