Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today claimed his side have given themselves a “fighting chance” of clinching second place in the Championship table after victory over Dumbarton saw them draw level on points with Falkirk.
The Bairns still have an advantage on goal difference but that was slashed from seven to three with last night’s 4-0 win which, Stubbs insisted, could have been even more emphatic had it not been for a superb performance from Dumbarton goalkeeper Jamie Ewings.
“It could have been seven,” said Stubbs. “Off the top of my head, he made three or four really good saves.” Ewings was, however, beaten by an early double from James Keatings, who went on to complete his second hat-trick of the season before Anthony Stokes poked home a fourth goal in added-on time in what was a comfortable victory for the Capital side.
And. although the home fans began to get a bit restless given the 62-minute gap between Keatings’ second and third strikes given the importance of goal difference, Stubbs insisted he was totally relaxed about the situation.
He said: “I knew we would create chances with the amount of effort Dumbarton had put in and really their goalkeeper has kept the score down to four.”
Stubbs admitted Hibs’ victory had made the final round of fixtures on Sunday, when Queen of the South will come to Easter Road and Morton go to Falkirk, “a bit more intriguing”.
But, he insisted, it was more important his players concentrate on getting another victory than worrying about the number of goals they might score. He said: “We have to make sure we win because we both have difficult games. The most important thing is to win the game. I’m sure the radios will be on, there will be cheers and bouts of quietness so we’ll just have to wait and see.
“All I am thinking about is us performing as well as we did last night on Sunday. If we do, we will have a good chance of getting a result.”
Dumbarton boss Steve Aitken took a swipe at Falkirk manager Peter Houston, who had voiced his fears as to the attitude of the Sons players given they’d secured their Championship place at the weekend, admitting he was worried about how many goals Hibs might score.
Aitken admitted Houston’s comments had hurt both him and his players, adamant they’d given their all against Hibs and that only tiredness of his part-timers was to blame for the final two goals they’d lost. And Stubbs certainly didn’t feel his side’s opponents were lacking in any way, pointing to a couple of challenges which, he believed, might have led to red cards.
Stubbs said: “When you leave the ground with two feet, which one of them was, and catch someone just above the knee, that tells you they have not downed tools. I was surprised by one of them [a Grant Gallagher challenge on Liam Henderson] that he was still on the pitch. When you down tools you do not tackle anyone but there were a couple of challenges which were bordering on red cards.”
Stubbs revealed that a number of players, top scorer Jason Cummings included, were rested last night and that others might be at the weekend while agreeing Keatings had made the most of the chance handed to him.
He said: “James did very well, but that wasn’t a surprise. He scores goals but his overall play was good, he linked up well, worked their defenders, made them make mistakes.”