Alan Stubbs expects to face a more attack-minded Raith Rovers when Hibs face the Fifers for the second time in a week tomorrow.
The Easter Road side struggled to a 1-0 win over Ray McKinnon’s outfit last Saturday to snatch three precious Championship points thanks to Jason Cummings’ 16th goal of the season. They now travel to Stark’s Park this weekend as they begin yet another assault on the Scottish Cup – described as their “Holy Grail” by head coach Stubbs.
And the Englishman expects a different approach from a Rovers side whose organisation and discipline he praised as they battled in vain to salvage a point from their visit to the Capital. He said: “It’s not ideal to be playing them twice in a week but that’s the way the fixtures have come out. I don’t think it makes any difference if you play a team three times on the bounce – as long as you get the right result, that’s the main thing, It’s a different format and a bit of a release from the league campaign but the demands, from my point of view, are exactly the same. I anticipate a different type of game to last weekend. The onus will be on Raith Rovers to come at us a bit, especially with them being at home. I wouldn’t have thought they’ll play similar to the way they played at Easter Road when they were well-organised and well-drilled and Ray McKinnon got everything out of them.”
Hibs, of course, got to within touching distance of cup glory in Stubbs’ first season in charge, losing 1-0 in the semi-finals to Falkirk despite being the better team on the day. It was, he admitted, as big a disappointment he’s suffered in his career but he’s adamant that Hibs’ wait for a trophy they last got their hands on in 1902 will come to an end one day.
He said: “The Falkirk defeat wasn’t great, when you get so close and you’ve actually played well. It was one of those days when it wasn’t meant to be. We did everything. We played well, we had chances, hit the post, the the crossbar. We could have played another 180 minutes of football and not won.”
Close but not close enough. A familiar story for Hibs fans and a history of which Stubbs was well aware of long before he became boss at Easter Road. He added: “I’ve said all along it’s going to change sometime. When? Unfortunately that crystal ball isn’t telling me. Maybe I might go and see a fortune teller and they can enlighten me.
“It’s like when you go on a winning run or encounter a losing run. It’s a matter of time when it finishes and I think it is the same with this. It’s not easy to win a cup. It’s a completely different format and it all depends on the luck of the draw.
“You look at Hearts in the last couple of years and they have encountered Celtic early on. Sometimes you get the feeling it could be your year with the draw, sometimes you don’t.
“Everybody has entered the competition wth a dream. Every fan is wondering if this can be their year. I’m entering it in my second year with exactly the same thoughts. The cup’s great. It’s the romance no matter which league you’re in in the world. It’s got someting different about it. It gets everyone’s attention. There’s optimism and a real buzz about it. We’re no different.”
Meanwhile, Hibs have revealed they now have more than 8500 season ticket holders, up 13 per cent after more than 700 “half season” tickets were sold, up on the 400 purchased last year.
Greig Mailer, head of marketing and commercial operations, said: “We have had a good response to the campaign and it’s great to see more and more fans returning to Easter Road. The fans are backing Alan Stubbs and the team which can only boost our chances of a successful end to the season.”