Alan Stubbs today hailed Hibs’ derby day performance as “fantastic and outstanding” before insisting: “We can get better still.”
Hibs came within two minutes of ending their Capital rivals’ unbeaten start to the season, a stunning injury-time strike by Alim Ozturk forcing them to settle for a point as it cancelled out Dominique Malonga’s first-half opener.
But, while bitterly disappointed with the outcome, Stubbs refused to let seeing victory slip through his players’ fingers detract from a display in which he felt his side had outplayed the Championship leaders – and one which he claimed deserved all three points.
Describing his side as “a hungry pack of lions”, Stubbs revealed his players firmly believed that despite the 14-point gap separating them from their city neighbours before kick-off they had what it took to down Robbie Neilson’s team.
He said: “I said after the first game it could have gone either way, although some of the reports did not reflect that. But this time I honestly believe we were the better team.
“I thought we looked more of a threat. We closed down well and looked like a hungry pack of lions. We had a real bit between our teeth, a real hunger, and a willingness to take the game to Hearts. We knew we could beat them. There was a real belief amongst the group, but football can be the harshest of environments and we saw that.”
The draw stretched Hibs’ unbeaten run to six games underlining, Stubbs claimed, the progress that is being made at Easter Road after a summer of turmoil following relegation. Asked if yesterday’s performance was the best yet, the head coach said: “I think it’s up there. I think we are getting better and I still think we can get better.
“There’s a lot of ability in there. I know there’s been a bit of mud-slinging earlier in the season about us not doing this and not doing that. But we have come in to this season with the biggest transformation to try to deal with. That’s not easy, but from then to now I think there has been significant improvement in the team.”
Although skipper David Gray described the timing of Hearts’ equaliser as having left him feeling as if Hibs had been beaten, that was an opinion his manager refused to share, saying: “I told them they cannot be disappointed with the way we performed, it’s impossible.
“I was proud of the players. They gave what I asked of them. I thought they were outstanding, fantastic from the first whistle to the last. Dylan McGeouch was outstanding, Scott Robertson was very good, Scott Allan at times showed real class, we were positive and we defended really well.
“But it is impossible to keep a good team from having no chances in 90 minutes of football and their goal was one of them. He’ll hit another 999 shots and not one of them will be on target.”
Hibs’ Under-20s take on St Mirren in Paisley tonight (kick-off 6pm).