Alan Stubbs admitted the penalty which gave Hibs victory over Falkirk and fired them into second place in the Championship table was “soft,” but added: “I am glad he gave it.”
Referee Alan Muir incensed the Bairns players and fans by pointing to the spot when Easter Road midfielder John McGinn ran into Falkirk’s Blair Alston, giving Jason Cummings the chance to claim his ninth goal of the season as he converted from 12 yards.
Controversial the award may have been, but it was enough to allow Hibs to leapfrog Saturday’s opponents Raith Rovers and cut leaders Rangers’ lead to eight points, with the Ibrox club due in Edinburgh a week on Sunday.
Head coach Stubbs, however, agreed his side had enjoyed a break with that penalty decision, although he insisted Hibs should have had one seconds earlier when skipper David Gray was barged in the area.
He said: “I thought it was a soft one. John put the ball down the side of Alston and has obviously gone the other way. I think there was a bit of John running into him and him standing his ground.
“It was a harsh one, but five seconds earlier there was a penalty on David for a push when he was going for the ball. Two wrongs don’t make a right – but I am glad he gave it.”
Although Hibs had to weather a late storm as Falkirk desperately sought an equaliser to keep their unbeaten home record intact, Stubbs, who had expressed his disappointment at losing two poor goals in the 4-2 win over Dumbarton at the weekend, insisted he was pleased with his side’s performance.
He said: “This isn’t an easy place to come to, but we dealt with everything they have thrown at us – crosses, long balls, throw-ins – and the lads have stood firm and shown a real resilience.
“That pleases me more than anything. You have to give Falkirk credit, they are not an easy team to play against. They are dogged, well-organised, so if anyone thought we were going to come here and be able to dominate them and play our possession football, then they would have been kidding themselves on.
“And for all the balls we had to deal with, I can only remember Mark Oxley making one save.”
Stubbs refused to countenance any talk of the looming showdown with Rangers, insisting: “We have another big game on Saturday. Raith’s home record is very good. I think they have conceded only one goal at home.
“We know it’s going to be another tough ground to go to. We are not looking at Rangers whatsoever. We are chasing because they’ve had a fantastic start to the season, but we are rising to the challenge and we are up for the fight.”
Bairns boss Houston believed his side deserved something from the game, adamant it wasn’t a penalty and that McGinn had confessed as much to Falkirk defender Paul Watson.
He said: “I had a great view of it. I don’t think the referee did, but his assistant did. Hibs players have said to Falkirk players that they did not think it was a penalty and I agree with them.”