Hibs boss Alan Stubbs viewed tonight’s opening play-off match against Rangers at Ibrox and declared: “We’ve played to win all season and we’re not going to change now.”
Although the stakes are high – a second leg at Easter Road on Saturday helping decide which of the two clubs will then face Motherwell to determine who plays Premiership football next season – Stubbs firmly believes attack will be the best form of defence in Govan. He did, though, concede his team may need to display a measure of pragmatism as tonight’s match unfolds.
He said: “Two legs certainly makes a difference. No matter what happens tonight, we’re going to have another bite at the cherry on Saturday.
“But it doesn’t change what we want to do. We want to go there and get a result. It’s the same as I’ve said all season and it’s going to be no different from our point of view. It’s very difficult to ask a team to go into the away tie and try to come out of there with a draw or hang in there and get some sort of result to bring back. It’s much better if you go there and try to win.
“We’re not going to change now. We’ve tried to play on the front foot all season. The fact we’ve got two game to try and progress to the play-off final is not going to change us too much. I don’t think that will suit the players.”
However, Stubbs admitted that amid the bedlam of a 50,000 sell-out crowd, his players will have to be aware of a second 90 minutes regardless of the situation they may find themselves in at any given time in the game.
He said: “Whether we find ourselves in front or whether we are drawing the game, there may be an element of consolidating what you’ve got and making sure that you bring it back here rather than trying to score another goal.
“We will monitor that as the game goes on. It will be a nice position to be in if we’re having to do that, but we know it’s going to be a very difficult game for both teams. They’re two good teams.”
Stubbs admitted he was unsure as to whether having the second game at home was an advantage, just as he was in two minds as to whether the fact that, come Saturday, Stuart McCall’s side will have played three demanding games in just six days, while his players go into tonight’s game on the back of an 18-day break.
The Hibs head coach said: “I don’t know about the second leg at home being an advantage. The only thing is you now what you’ve got to do so from that point of view I suppose it could have a slight advantage.
“Coming through the [Queen of the South] tie will have given Rangers a big lift. When you have that psychologically it gives you a lift, but physically it will take it’s toll somewhere along the line. At the end of the day they are human beings, not robots. They cannot keep churning out performances.
“You always find something extra when you are winning games. When you are losing you can easily feel tired. We finished the season in good form, with five straight wins. We are refreshed, we are ready.
“The players look hungry. They know exactly what is in front of them and what needs to be done.
“We are all glad the talking has finished and we can get down to business.”