Jordon Forster believes he and his team-mates need cool heads rather than revenge burning in their hearts as they face Falkirk knowing a win will clinch second place in the Championship.
The Bairns have been Hibs’ bogey team this season, winning twice in the league while also coming from 3-1 down to take a point at Easter Road and, most recently, ending the Capital club’s Scottish Cup dream.
Alan Stubbs’ players, however, have bounced back from that Hampden heartbreak, scoring seven goals to beat both Livingston and Alloa Athletic and so leapfrog Rangers in the race for that second spot which will ensure a less arduous play-off schedule.
Their advantage, though, is slender, a solitary point augmented by a superior goal difference while Rangers face a tricky afternoon at Tynecastle where it will be party-time for Robbie Neilson, his players and their fans as they finally get their hands on the Championship trophy.
But while a draw at Falkirk might be enough for Hibs depending on how that clash in Gorgie works out, Forster insisted they won’t be prepared to leave anything to chance, adamant the only thought in their minds will be the win which will end all doubts.
Acknowledging Saturday’s opponents had “done us a turn” in earning a draw at Ibrox, the Hibs defender said: “We’d gone into our game against Alloa intent on winning regardless of how Rangers got on and it will be exactly the same again this weekend. What has happened, though, is that it is now in our own hands which is a good thing. Win again and we finish second.”
Falkirk were actually within seconds of beating Rangers, a result which would have given Hibs a two-point lead and the knowledge that just a draw against Peter Houston’s side would be enough provided, of course, the Glasgow side didn’t conjure up an unlikely five-goal win at Tynecastle.
However, Forster admitted the result removes any ambiguity as to what is required. He said: “I’d gone to retrieve the ball for a throw-in and one of our fans told me Falkirk were two up. We were winning 3-1 at that point so it sounded good.
“But, regardless of the fact all players and managers always say they are going for the win, there could come the situation where it’s 1-1 with 85 minutes gone, and there’s that subconscious thing, you become defensive in trying to ensure you hold onto what you’ve got and suddenly there’s an edgy feel to it all. So, in a way, it does help us, it puts the focus entirely on winning. On the day it’s down to how we approach the game and how we play. The boys will all be fired up for it.”
Forster admitted that it was a touch ironic that having failed to take their chances against Falkirk at Hampden, Hibs had gone on to score seven goals in their next two matches, saying: “That’s football. We’ve had a few games this season where we’ve created a number of chances and not scored and others where we’ve played poorly and scored a few. Sometimes games go for you, sometimes they don’t. I think that’s why it’s such a fascinating sport and why so many people around the world love the game. It’s the way the cookie crumbles. Unfortunately we lost the semi-final but now we are focused on winning Saturday and finishing second.”
And Forster brushed aside the suggestion that he and his team-mates may feel they “owe Falkirk one” following not only the semi-final defeat but previous results. He said: “I think revenge is a very strong emotion. You can get caught up in what has happened in the past but if you go looking for revenge your mindset is, I think, wrong, your focus is on the wrong aspects.
“We’ll give Falkirk the respect they deserve. They’ve been a hard team for us to play against this season but as soon as the whistle goes we’ll be confident of getting the three points.”
Top scorers Jason Cummings and Dominique Malonga have both been on target in the last two matches, the teenager taking his tally for the season to 19 while the Congolese hitman now stands on 15 and has, in Forster’s estimation, answered the criticism he has been receiving recently.
The 21-year-old said: “Dom has had his critics over the past few weeks but he is a great player, in and around the box he is lethal. Jason has been terrific for us this season. They’ve got 34 goals between them which is a great return. Scoring goals is the hardest thing in football but those two aside we’ve got plenty of others who have chipped in along the way.”
Forster himself has claimed just one goal in what has been a season blighted by injury and illness but he came close to adding to that tally as Hibs swept Alloa aside, one header nodded off the line by Iain Flannigan while he chose to put another into the path of Malonga to wrap things up rather than go for goal himself.
He said: “I think I perhaps got up a wee bit too early for the first one, I could feel myself above everyone else and was on the way down when I made contact. At the second I was back-pedalling a bit to reach Scott Allan’s cross and I felt if I went for it I would be being a bit selfish and probably get some stick for not putting it back across goal.
“So I knocked it down and there was Dom for a tap-in which was just as good.”
Knowing his side had to beat Alloa, Stubbs tinkered with his formation, ditching the 3-5-2 he had utilised recently in favour of a 4-3-3 which allowed Forster, primarily a central defender, to be drafted in at right-back in the absence of injury victims David Gray and Keith Watson. Forster, though, found himself being used as an auxiliary winger with Alloa playing a lone striker in Liam Buchanan.
He said: “The manager has introduced a few different formations this season but the boys are all very aware of what to do, where they need to be in certain situations in all of them and they can all rotate around the pitch.
“Right-back isn’t my normal position but I enjoyed it even if I ended up pretty tired getting up and down that line all game.”