Scott Robertson today backed his Hibs team-mates to bounce back from the shock of their 15-match unbeaten run being brought to an abrupt halt by Rangers in exactly the same way they reacted to an earlier setback this season.
Alan Stubbs’ side were building up a head of steam, their only loss in 11 matches coming in a penalty shoot-out against Premiership side Dundee United, when they lost 1-0 at Falkirk in the beginning of December.
But, they picked themselves up, putting together a string of results, culminating in seven successive victories which fired them up to second place in the Championship table, only to falter against the Ibrox outfit.
Goals from Lee Wallace and ex-Hibs star Kenny Miller cut the Easter Road side’s advantage over Rangers to just three points when they had been hoping to extend their advantage to nine.
However, while noises emanating from Govan suggest the impetus has now swung in Rangers favour, Hibs midfielder Robertson insisted he and his team-mates still retain the upper-hand, adamant defeat at the weekend will prove to be no more than a blip.
The midfielder said: “I recall a wee while back we’d fallen eight points behind Rangers and people were writing us off and yet we overhauled them and have got ourselves into second place, where we still remain.
“Obviously what happened on Sunday wasn’t what we wanted. We didn’t play as well as we can, but Rangers came with a game plan and executed it. We should have been better than to allow them to do that.”
Like everyone else at Easter Road Robertson couldn’t believe referee Willie Collum’s refusal to award a free-kick ten minutes from the end when Wallace crashed into Hibs defender Paul Hanlon, Miller pouncing on the loose ball to put the game beyond the Capital club.
Robertson said: “I’d just come off and Sam Stanton had been brought on to try to get a goal. Going into the last ten 1-0 down you are still thinking you can nick something but the second goal ended those thoughts.
“It was a blatant free-kick. You could tell from the reaction of the other Rangers players. Bar Kenny Miller, they all stopped as well as us because it was so obvious.
“We could have found ourselves in a better position, but we are still in a good position. Rangers are still behind us, they have to try to catch us.
“We’ll just focus on ourselves and I’m sure we’ll remember how we came back from the disappointment of losing at Falkirk to put that great run together. I’d like to think we can go on and win some more games between now and the end of the season.”
Although the battle for second place is being put as a straightforward fight between Hibs and Rangers, Robertson insisted no-one at Easter Road was taking anything for granted, adamant that both Queen of the South and Falkirk are still in the hunt for a play-off place, while Raith will also believe they have an outside chance, particularly after their 3-0 win over the Dumfries side on Tuesday night.
The Bairns also did their cause a lot of good with a narrow win over Cowdenbeath, but Robertson believes clubs such as the Fife outfi,t who are scrapping to avoid the threat of relegation, will have a bearing over what happens in the final seven games of the season.
He said: “Everyone has their own agenda. We all want points for whatever reason and at this stage of the season it doesn’t matter where they come from. No matter where teams are in the league, especially with things as tight as they are, they’re desperate for points.”
The importance of finishing second has, of course, been well documented, the runners-up spot to Hearts ensuring that side will have two fewer play-off matches to negotiate which, with every side capable of taking points off each other, lessens the danger of losing out just that little bit.
Robertson said: “Finishing third or fourth puts you, effectively, in the quarter-finals, but ending up second means you’ll be in the semis so that is the aim. We’ll see where the next seven games takes us. Everyone is playing everyone else, Rangers have Hearts home and away while we have Hearts at home. Queen of the South and Falkirk have taken points from both us and Rangers and we still have to play each of them, as do Rangers, so there’s obviously going to be points dropped.
“The aim has to be to pick up more than the rest and get that second place. But you can’t forget the other teams, they’ll be just as anxious for points as those hoping for a play-off place. They’ll have their own need for points – you can’t take anything for granted.”
While Hearts have the title wrapped up, Robertson doesn’t believe the Jambos will prove to be any less formidable opponents in the closing stages of the season, with head coach Robbie Neilson eyeing both a points record and 100 goals.
The former Dundee, Dundee United and Blackpool player said: “I honestly don’t think they will take the foot off the gas. They’ve got guys playing for contracts next season, if not at Hearts then elsewhere and I know if I was in that position I wouldn’t be taking my foot off the pedal, so I’m sure they’ll be going into each of the remaining games with exactly the same attitude and desire they have every other match.”