Captain David Gray today admitted every match has become a “must-win” for Hibs as the Easter Road club strive to get their season back on track.
A shock 1-0 defeat by relegated Alloa Athletic – the Wasps’ first win at home all season – means Alan Stubbs’ side are now six points behind Falkirk in the race to clinch second place in the Championship table and so ensure a shortened promotion play-off campaign.
Hibs face the Bairns at home tomorrow night and although they enjoy two games in hand over Peter Houston’s team, no margin for error remains for Gray and his team-mates, who also hope to clinch a place in the Scottish Cup final when they play Dundee United at Hampden on Saturday.
“I think we have to go into every game feeling it’s a must-win,” said the right back. “We thought Alloa was a must-win – we didn’t so we go to tomorrow and it’s a must-win.
“It’s all about results between now and the end of the season. We still have an opportunity to have a great end to the season – there’s all to play for.”
Gray accepted, though, that Hibs need to show a vast improvement in their performance at the Indodrill Stadium on Saturday.
“I just did not think we were good enough,” he said.
“The disappointing thing was Alloa are already relegated. We have everything to play for – they have nothing – but you would not have thought that the way the game went.”
A controversial goal from Michael Duffy – the ball crashing off the underside of goalkeeper Mark Oxley’s crossbar on the stroke of half-time and ruled to have crossed the line by assistant referee Thomas Shaw – continued Hibs’ miserable run, which now reads as one win in their past seven leagues games.
Gray offered no view on Duffy’s strike and he insisted Alloa’s narrowed plastic pitch couldn’t be used as an excuse, but admitted Hibs had lost an opportunity to continue building momentum after coming from behind to draw with St Mirren and then beat Livingston in their previous two matches.
Calling on his team-mates to show the character and resilience which has helped them overcome setbacks throughout the season, he said: “You can have all the ability in the world, but if you do not perform or turn up on the day then hard work will always beat quality.
“We have to get back to basics. We were in yesterday working as hard as we can to put all the things that went wrong right.
“I don’t think the character of the squad has ever been in question. Against Alloa we were trying right to the end, but it just was no falling for us.
“The togetherness is still there. It’s good to have team spirit and character in your dressing-room, but this is the time when we all need to stand up and be counted, every single player.”
Gray also refused to use Hibs’ hectic schedule of matches – nine fixtures to be fulfilled this month after an equally taxing programme prior to the latest international break as they battled on three fronts – as an excuse for the recent poor run.
He said: “Yes, we have a busy schedule, but as players you want to be playing in big games and we still have the opportunity to do that. You doctor training around games so there’s no excuses there either.”
And Gray welcomed the prospect of such a big match coming hard on the heels of this defeat, saying: “You don’t want a full week trying to get over a massive disappointment. Now we have a chance to put it right.”