Hibs have been warned to brace themselves for an under-the-radar title surge from the ever-improving Falkirk.
The Easter Road side’s main challenge at the top of the Championship this season has come from Dundee United, whom they visit this Friday night in a much-hyped televised showdown.
However, sandwiched in between the two big guns of the division are second-placed Falkirk, who have emerged as the in-form team in the second tier over the past couple of months.
Peter Houston’s team had an inconsistent start to the season but are now just six points behind Hibs – albeit having played a game more – after an impressive run in which they have taken 14 points from their last six matches.
John Rankin, a former Hibs and United player who was with Falkirk for the first half of the current campaign, believes the Bairns will now fancy their chances of going for first place and should be taken seriously by their more illustrious rivals.
“At this stage of the season, it’s about results and Falkirk are getting them just now,” said Rankin, whose Queen of the South team lost to the Bairns last Saturday. “Peter Houston’s been in this position before. He knows exactly how to get the best out of his players at this stage of the season and get his team into the play-offs. But they must have one eye on [catching] Hibs as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re looking at Friday night’s game wanting Dundee United to win, even though they would drop a place in the league. If United win, it gives Falkirk a chance of going and challenging for the title. They will fancy themselves.”
Falkirk lost to Kilmarnock in last season’s play-off final after pipping Hibs to second place in the league and then beating them in the play-off semi-final. Rankin believes last season’s experience will serve them well as they aim to maintain their challenge for the next two months.
“They’re desperate to get promoted this year, whether it’s through the play-offs or by winning the league,” he said. “At this moment in time, they’ll probably be thinking realistically they are going for second, but I know with the mentality they’ve got there, they’ll be thinking they can come through as underdogs and get themselves promoted. They have certainly got plenty about them.”