Scott Robertson today admitted that Hibs’ primary goal is to recover the ground on Rangers in the chase for second place in the Championship.
A stunning 4-0 victory over the Ibrox side, in which Robertson scored the third goal, narrowed the gap to just four points with the evidence of that day suggesting Alan Stubbs’ players could overhaul the troubled Glasgow outfit even if Capital rivals and title favourites Hearts carried on winning.
But a draw at Tynecastle and another as a 3-1 lead against Falkirk was thrown away last weekend have resulted in Rangers extending their advantage over Stubbs’ team to eight points. However, while agreeing it had been frustrating to see the Govan outfit stretch their lead so dramatically in such a short space of time, the Easter Road midfielder said: “It’s a major disappointment to get so close to them and let them get away again.
“We’ve still got to play them twice, and I’d like to think with the fixtures coming up we can put together another good run and get even closer.
“I’ve said in the past when we were in fourth position that we were focusing on third. We’ve managed to sneak ourselves in there, and now our next target is to be up to second. It’s slipped away a little bit in the last couple of weeks, but that is our main focus at the moment – to try to get into second. And then we’ll see what happens from there.”
While Rangers may be firmly in the sights, Stubbs and his players are also conscious of the need to keep play-off rivals Queen of the South and the Bairns – who meet today at Falkirk as Hibs take on Cowdenbeath at Easter Road – at arm’s length, with the draw against Peter Houston’s side having robbed them of the chance to widen the gap between themselves and those two clubs.
And draws, Robertson admitted, have been the undoing of Hibs to a certain extent this season with no other Championship side having had more matches end in stalemate than the six which have left players and supporters alike deeply frustrated.
Replying “absolutely” when asked if he felt that was the case, the 29-year-old went on: “The weekend past, Dumbarton and Raith Rovers at home – these are the ones that spring to mind. That’s six points that we should have managed to see out, and we would have been in a little better position than we are now.
“But we haven’t managed that. Every game that’s coming up now till the end of the season is a chance to cement our position in the top two in the league, every weekend is a chance to get three points.”
While conceding the draw against Falkirk had “felt like a defeat,” given the manner in which the goals were lost, the fact remains that Hibs have lost just once in their last 15 league matches albeit that six of them, as Robertson has pointed out, have ended in draws. And, with 11 goals coming in their last four games, Robertson feels Stubbs’ team carries a threat from all areas of the pitch. He said: “Martin Boyle made a good contribution at the weekend, assisting for Jason Cummings’ second goal and making good runs in behind.
“Lewis Stevenson has chipped in with a lot of assists while Scott Allan has obviously made a massive contribution to our up-turn in fortunes with his form. But I also think we don’t just rely on him, it’s not a one-man team.”
Cummings’ double against Falkirk – he was denied a hat-trick when referee Willie Collum credited Hibs’ second as an own goal by Bairns defender Luke Leahy – made it five in four for the 19-year-old, taking his tally for the season to 11 which makes him the top scorer in the Championship with Robertson tipping his team-mate’s scoring streak to continue.
He said: “It wasn’t a hat-trick, I think you can see from his celebration he’s not touched it. But Jason has done unbelievably well with his other goals and hopefully it continues.
“With him getting more game time he’s getting more chances and more goals. I think when you are a striker and you get that little head of steam up, the goals keep coming so hopefully they do in the next couple of games.”
The majority of Cummings’ recent goals have come from inside the six-yard box, the sign, believes Robertson, of the youngster’s predatory instinct. He said: “Jason has found himself in the right position. The boys are putting good balls into the box and he’s in the right place at the right time.
“A lot of his goals have come from crosses.
“It’s a good instinct to be in the right place. He’s shown good strength to get his goals as well. For example the one against Hearts when he had the strength to see off the challenge from a defender, then keep his composure and finish well.”