Alan Stubbs today revealed how he has created his own “Central Park” at Hibs’ East Mains training ground ahead of tomorrow’s clash at Cowdenbeath.
The Fife club’s pitch, which has a stock car race track running around it, is eight yards narrower and five shorter than Easter Road, making it much tighter and posing obvious difficulties for a side more used to playing on larger surfaces.
Stubbs, however, has had a pitch which is even narrower than the one at Central Park marked out for his players to train on, adamant that there will be no excuses as Hibs seek to maintain their recent run of form which has taken them into the play-off places.
While the Blue Brazil’s stadium may not be pleasing on the eye, Stubbs insisted that what goes on between those white lines is all that matters. To that end, he believes his side’s impressive performances against Championship leaders Hearts and Dundee United in the League Cup will have sent confidence, which was rising in any case, soaring.
The head coach said: “Central Park should not present a difficulty and I don’t expect it to. A lot of the players know about the environment, the surroundings so it shouldn’t be something new or alien to them.
“At the end of the day we are going to an away ground which might be different to other away grounds for whatever reason, but the same things apply. The pitch will be narrower but it’s about what we do as a group of players. We have to be better than the opposition.”
Having built up a hefty dossier on Jimmy Nicholl’s side, Stubbs predicted as tough a match as the encounter earlier in the season when Hibs had to come from behind to win with a goal by Jason Cummings deep into added-on time.
He said: “I saw them on Tuesday against Rangers and for periods of the game they did really well. I watched them against Falkirk [a game Cowdenbeath lost 6-0] which was probably one of those matches you can’t judge anyone on and we’ve seen them against Hearts. We’ve seen plenty of them, but most importantly the one at home when they gave us a fright.
“We’re not so stupid or naive to think we can go anywhere and the opposition will just allow us to play. We know it’s going to be tough.”
Having said that, though, Stubbs firmly believes Cowdenbeath will be facing a totally different Hibs team to the one they played in September. He said: “From where we were then to where we are now it’s not that I think we are a different team, I know we are. We are playing at a different level.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs has insisted he is “thrilled” by French-born Dominique Malonga’s call-up by Congo for their African Cup of Nations qualifying matches against Nigeria and Sudan, even although it means the striker will miss Hibs’ league game against Queen of the South and may miss part of January should they make the finals.
While admitting that being without Malonga, who has scored six goals in nine games, would be a loss, Stubbs added: “It’s wonderful for this club if we have an international player who’s representing his country after just a few weeks at this club.”