Alan Stubbs insisted a draw was the least Hibs deserved as their Scottish Cup showdown with Capital rivals Hearts finished 2-2, claiming his players might even have won if there had been another five minutes of play.
But Stubbs declared himself “satisfied and happy” to have earned a replay – to take place at Easter Road tomorrow week – having watched his side battle back from two goals down to haul themselves level with a strike from defender Paul Hanlon in the 90th minute at Tynecastle.
First-half goals from Arnaud Djoum and Sam Nicholson appeared to have condemned the Championship outfit to only their second defeat in 25 matches, but Jason Cummings’ 19th goal of the season ten minutes from time threw them a lifeline which they grabbed with Hanlon’s sensational equaliser.
However, despite trailing Robbie Neilson’s team, Stubbs insisted he never lost faith that his players could turn the game around. The Hibs head coach said: “When we came in at half-time, it was one of those where you were thinking ‘how are we 2-0 down?’ because I did not feel we deserved to be. But we were.
“The first goal was a good strike, the second we could have defended a bit better but I spoke at half-time about the next goal and how imporant it was because I felt if we could get it we could go on and get something from the game – and so it proved.
“I thought in the second half we were fantastic. We pinned a really good Hearts team back for the majority of the half and I have to say the least we deserved was what we got.”
Asked what that storming second half told him about his young players, Stubbs stated: “I didn’t tell me anything because I already know it.
“It’s other people who are questioning them but I have said all along I have 100 per cent belief in this team. They are really good, I enjoy coming to work, I enjoy being around them, I enjoy their company. They have a fantastic spirit and bond amongst them and, when you have that and the most important thing – ability – anything is possible.”
Hibs did have to survive one late scare when Niklas Gunnarsson’s sliced clearance clipped the top of his own bar leading to a corner which Hearts defender Blazej Augustyn powered goalwards only for Kevin Thomson to head off his own line but, insisted Stubbs: “It was one of the rare occasions they were up there second half.
“We dealt with it but I thought there were more scary moments at the other end, to be honest. But we performed very well because Hearts are a really good team, really strong and have very good players. I don’t mean the physical thing, that’s a conversation that deflects away from a good team which has a good balance between strength and good technical players.”
Stubbs added: “Another five minutes would have been very interesting. To be 2-0 down and to get a draw, I am happy. But I am more pleased for the players and the fans. They keep answering the questions. They don’t know when to lie down.
“There’s a lot of fight in there and the support was as fantastic as ever.”