Hibs’ Alan Stubbs won’t rule Falkirk out of title race

Captain David Gray makes a challenge during Hibs' 1-0 victory over Falkirk in October. Pic: Roddy Scott/SNS
Captain David Gray makes a challenge during Hibs' 1-0 victory over Falkirk in October. Pic: Roddy Scott/SNS
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Hibs boss Alan Stubbs has refused to write off Falkirk in the race for the Championship title, insisting it’s not a straight fight between the Capital club and Rangers.

The Bairns currently lie six points behind Stubbs’ side who are trailing table-topping Rangers by three, the postponement of the Easter Road club’s match with Morton robbing them of the chance to turn up the heat on both of their rivals.

Stubbs’ players were halfway to Cappielow knowing both Rangers game at Raith Rovers and Falkirk’s home match with Livingston had been called off when they learned that their fixture, too, had also fallen victim to torrential rain.

The fact that Morton’s pitch had been declared playable only for police to rule it couldn’t go ahead due to public safety concerns with local roads becoming impassable was frustration enough for Stubbs and his players who had begun their journey hoping to extend their current 15-match unbeaten run.

But there was also the disappointment of realising the opportunity to haul themselves level with Rangers again while extending their lead over Falkirk ahead of the Bairns visit to Easter Road on Saturday to nine points.

Stressing victory over fourth-placed Morton was in no way guaranteed, Stubbs said: “It would have been a chance to put a bit more pressure on both Rangers and Falkirk – but it could also have gone the other way.

“The conditions we had on Saturday can be a bit of a leveller at times but I think we are confident of going into any game.”

Hibs now take on third-placed Falkirk – who face Rangers the following week – with the situation unchanged and Stubbs well aware of the threat Peter Houston’s side, unbeaten in their last six matches and having won five of them since going down to a controversial Jason Cummings’ penalty in mid-October, pose.

He said: “People keep forgetting about Falkirk. They have had a brilliant start. People say it’s all about Hibs and Rangers, they might be right, but I am certainly not going to discount the other teams around us.

“There’s a lot of football to be played and I have said all along that we will drop points 
somewhere along the line, so will Rangers and so will Falkirk. It’s the team that’s going to be the most consistent that’s going to come out on top.”

Stubbs had admitted his players were “straining at the leash” to get back into action having been idle the previous weekend because of the Scottish Cup but, he insisted seeing a two-week break extended by another seven days won’t disrupt the momentum his side has built, leading to them winning their last eight league games.

While the players were given Saturday off – the lengthy list of postponements preventing Stubbs taking in a game elsewhere as he would usually have done in such circumstances – the head coach revealed the strength in depth within his squad will allow him to stage a match at the club’s East Mains training centre.

He said: “It’s not going to be three weeks without a game. We’ll play one amongst ourselves. It will replicate a league match to a degree but it won’t be intense.

“The fact we have a big, competitive squad means we don’t have to bring in too many young lads to do so. It will be among first-team players all looking to be part of the matchday squad for the visit of Falkirk.”

Stubbs, however, disclosed that Liam Henderson won’t be involved as he continues to recover from the viral infection which saw him miss the win over Alloa in Hibs last outing and also ruled him out of the trip to Greenock.

He said: “Liam is going to be building his strength and fitness. He has been doing that since Thursday but we have to be careful not to bring him back too quickly.”