Alan Stubbs today backed his players to forget referee Alan Muir’s penalty blunder by claiming victory over Falkirk tomorrow night.
Muir left the Hibs head coach, players and fans stunned when he refused to point to the spot as Bairns skipper David McCracken blatantly handled the ball.
At that stage, the Easter Road side were 2-1 ahead in the first leg of their Premiership play-off semi-final with goals from Liam Henderson and Darren McGregor after Lee Miller had given Falkirk a first half lead.
And Peter Houston’s team capitalised on that escape with Bob McHugh netting a late equaliser yet again – although Hibs goalkeeper Conrad Logan was culpable for allowing the substitute’s shot to squirm under his body – leaving the tie hanging in the balance rather than with Hibs going into the second leg in pole position.
However, as wronged as everyone connected with the Capital club might have felt, Stubbs insisted the players will simply clear their heads and be ready to go again, confident that if they play to their capabilities it will be them and not Falkirk who will take on Kilmarnock in the fight for the right to play top flight football next season.
He said: “We all know it should have been given. Unfortunately it was not. We will never know the reason, but it’s forgotten and we move on. We don’t look back and say ‘we didn’t get that one so we are due one’.
“It’s not as if we do not have another opportunity to win. We have the chance to go there tomorrow night and if we play as well as we can we will have an opportunity to win the game, the tie is wide open.”
Stubbs believes his players once again showed their strength of character to come back at Falkirk having fallen behind after making all the early running, displaying no signs of wilting in what was their 52nd match of the season and their third game in just six days.
Adamant they’d looked strong and sharp both physically and mentally, he said: “I think in terms of possession in the first half we were the team I would say which looked the most likely to score without really creating a lot of clear-cut chances.
“I thought we just forced it a bit on occasions, but to go behind in such an important game and for the players to respond in the way they did second half shows you everything you need to know.”
In addition to Hibs’ two goals, Stubbs pointed to the opportunities both John McGinn and Anthony Stokes enjoyed before Henderson’s equaliser, adding: “To be fair to Stokesy, the ball bobbles up on him when he hits it. But for someone with his ability he was disappointed not to at least make the goalkeeper work.”
Stubbs hopes to have Marvin Bartley back, the midfielder having missed the first leg with a tight hamstring. He said: “Marvin felt it after the game at the weekend and later on while walking. But he did some training yesterday and I’m very hopeful he will be available tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs revealed he’s no worries about Logan following the Irishman’s costly error having had a “quiet chat” with him. He said: “Conrad has had a real positive effect in a short space of time since he came in, not just in the dressing room but on the pitch.
“You don’t want to see any goalkeeper make an individual error, but he is big enough and experienced enough to deal with it.”