Alan Stubbs believes Hibs are recapturing their early-season form as they begin what he admits will be a tough play-off programme if they are to fulfil their target of gaining promotion to the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The Easter Road club face an extended schedule – two extra games – after being forced into a third-place finish in the Championship table, beginning with the first leg of a quarter-final against in-form Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park tomorrow night.
And, although his side stumbled badly as they took just five points from eight league games, Stubbs pointed out his players are now unbeaten in six and have created goalscoring chances running into double figures in each of their last two matches.
Their recent run, insisted the head coach, is an indication that Hibs are close to the form they enjoyed when they embarked on a run of just one defeat in 28 games while pursuing glory on three fronts.
He said: “I don’t think we are too far away from it. Back then, we were doing what we’ve done over the last few games.
“We’ve kept clean sheets and we’ve looked like we are scoring goals again.
“We’ve created double-figure chances in the last few games and I’ve got to say the keepers [of Dumbarton and Queen of the South] have played really well. It could have been considerably more against Dumbarton and the young lad made some great saves at the weekend.
“The most important thing is we are creating chances and we have got the players who can take them.”
Stubbs has also seen his players rise to the occasion as they faced Premiership opposition in both the League and Scottish Cups, enjoying wins over Aberdeen, Dundee United, St Johnstone, Hearts and Inverness and believes they can do so again in the play-offs.
He said: “When we have played against Premiership teams in the big cup games, the players have always responded and, if anything, some of our best performances were in those games.
“I don’t expect anything different in these matches. These are going to be six difficult games. We have to come through the first two against Raith Rovers which is going to be tough because Ray [McKinnon] and his team have done extremely well this season.”
That said, Stubbs insisted he’ll be looking for victories in both games against Raith, saying: “You have to look to try and win both games. To set out your stall to go away and come out with a result.
“What’s a result? I’d rather be coming away with a victory but we know it is going to be a tough game there. It’s a tricky place to go to. The last time we went there [a 2-1 defeat in mid-March], it was difficult to play.
“The rain is going to come down and that will help soften pitches at this time of the year.
“Raith are a big, strong team and have some good players who have had good seasons. We’re going to have to be as good as we have been over recent weeks if we are going to get a result.”