Scott Robertson and his Easter Road team-mates are stalking Rangers, just waiting for that one vital slip which would allow them to leapfrog the Ibrox outfit and clinch second place in the Championship.
But Robertson admitted there’s no point in hoping that either Falkirk or Hearts will “do us a turn,” if Alan Stubbs’ players don’t take care of business themselves in their final two matches, against Alloa Athletic and then the Bairns who have proved to be their bogey team not only in the league but the Scottish Cup.
However, while Falkirk had shattered Hibs’ cup hopes in that semi-final a few days earlier, the Capital outfit bounced back with a comfortable victory over basement outfit Livingston to slash Rangers’ advantage in the battle for second spot to a single point. Whoever finishes second plays two fewer play-off games.
The 3-1 triumph in West Lothian would suggest Hibs had turned in a better performance but midfielder Robertson insisted the display against the Lions was poorer, the only difference, he claimed, being the bit of luck which had deserted them at Hampden went their way as they left Mark Burchill’s side teetering on the brink of relegation.
He said: “I think saying we didn’t have the bottle after losing to Falkirk was an easy accusation to make to be honest because it was obvious to anyone who watched the game that we’d put in a good performance in my opinion. We didn’t get a goal but I felt we didn’t play as well against Livingston and yet we got the goals.”
And Robertson, who opened the scoring for Hibs, cited Jason Cummings’ 18th strike of the season, which came barely a minute after Myles Hippolyte had equalised for the Lions, as evidence of how thin the line between success and failure can be at times. He said: “Jason’s first shot is blocked but rebounds to him and he sticks it away. That’s the sort of thing that didn’t happen on Saturday. We had shots blocked but the ball just wouldn’t land at our feet while we also hit the post and the bar. There was also a bit of bad finishing as well.”
If the Hibs support made the journey expecting a fourth win of the season over Livingston, Robertson was adamant it wasn’t as straightforward as the fans might have thought and he expects an equally tough game against Alloa Athletic tomorrow as the Wasps, like the Lions, battle against the drop.
He said: “Alloa will be desperate for points to take them away from the relegation play-off spot and to make sure they don’t get dragged into bottom place itself. You can’t take anything for granted in this league, Queen of the South went on a good run, beat Falkirk, ourselves and Rangers and then dropped points at Alloa.
“There’s no easy game. The last time we played Alloa at home it was 2-0 to us and could have been more. But until the second goal went in late on it wasn’t over. It was the same against Livingston even although they were down to ten men with Darren Cole having been sent off before half-time.
“Livingston didn’t sit in, they had a go even with ten men and as long as it remained 2-1 there was still that threat we could get caught out by a bad decision or a mistake. But Dominique Malonga’s goal sealed it and we saw the rest of the game out quite comfortably.”
Asked if he felt Hibs or Rangers had the easier final couple of fixtures to negotiate, Robertson said: “No-one has. Falkirk are still capable of getting into the play-offs but they need to beat Rangers, who also obviously need the points if they are to finish second, and then Rangers have to go to Tynecastle on the final day.
“For us we’ve got tough games and that’s what we need to concentrate on. There’s no point trying to work out the permutations of what might or might not happen elsewhere because that will count for nothing if we don’t look after ourselves.
“We’ll look to beat Alloa and then see what’s happened between Falkirk and Rangers. If nothing changes then we go to Falkirk, and Rangers go to Hearts on the last day so it looks like being an exciting finish.”
Hibs notched the win at Livingston without playmaker Scott Allan, the midfielder undoubtedly the club’s player of the year and one of the four candidates to earn that accolade from his fellow professionals in the Championship, a fact which, Robertson insisted, highlighted the need for the strong squad which Stubbs has assembled.
Injury victims David Gray and Keith Watson also missed out but are set to return for the play-offs and, according to the former Dundee, Dundee United and Blackpool player, having everyone available will delight Stubbs.
He said: “Everyone knows what Scott brings to the team, his undoubted quality on the ball, the passes he can see and execute. He’s won umpteen man-of-the-match awards and rightly so but we’ve equal quality in other areas of the park. We are all going to be needed between now and the end of the season in what we want to achieve.
“We’ve got possibly as many as eight matches to play all going well and I’m sure the entire squad is going to be utilised.”
While there’s no question Allan deserves his nomination for PFA Scotland’s player of the year award, the absence of Cummings’ name has raised a few eyebrows. Robertson, who felt the teenage striker, pictured left, should have been on the shortlist for the young player prize, said: “This is his first season as a first-team regular and he has done remarkably well to get the goals he has. I’m sure with the games left he’d love to finish as the top scorer in this division which would make it an amazing season for him. He seems to be a real ‘sniffer’, in the right place at the right time and with a bit more coaching and experience I am sure he will score even more.”