Alan Stubbs has insisted victory in tomorrow night’s William Hill Scottish Cup replay against Inverness Caledonian Thistle would provide his players with the perfect pick-me-up after the bitter disappointment of losing the League Cup final.
Hibs travel up the A9 knowing a win will take them back to Hampden for a semi-final showdown with Dundee United and, Stubbs claimed, Sunday’s deflating experience will only serve to drive his side on.
While accepting defeat by Ross County – the first the Capital club had suffered in seven outings against Premiership opposition this season – was a setback, the head coach believed his side had done more than enough to win the trophy, revealing Staggies midfielder Martin Woods had even sent him a text admitting Hibs had been unlucky.
He said: “Martin and I were actually team-mates together at Sunderland for six months. He was just starting his career and I was at the end of mine. It was a nice touch from him. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s the way cup finals can go.
“I thought we had chances to win the game and, on another day, we could have won it. But credit to Ross County, they stayed in the game and have managed to win it at the very death.” Stubbs and his squad talked over Sunday’s events at training yesterday but, he insisted, they now have to put that disappointment behind them and look forward. He said: “We have another opportunity tomorrow to get back there [to Hampden] and, if that’s not an incentive, nothing ever will be.
“To win in Inverness would be the perfect pick-me-up. We have more than held our own against Premiership opposition and, while we know it’ll be another difficult game, we know we can get a result.”
Stubbs accepted that Hibs’ record against top-flight clubs – Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone were all knocked out of the League Cup and Capital rivals Hearts the Scottish – had probably made Sunday’s defeat all the harder for the 30,000 Hibs fans who had descended on the national stadium all the harder to take. He said: “There is an element of that because of the size of this club. It’s a massive club, a club with a history, a proud club. We are all as disappointed as anyone but it was not as if we did not perform. We more than held our own but unfortunately the cards did not fall for us. I’d had lots of well-wishers and messages from fans mentioning the number of times Hibs had gone there and not performed – but we performed.”
Stubbs insisted a message posted by Liam Fontaine, whose attempted clearance fell for County striker Alex Schalk to claim that last-minute winner, underlined the character in his squad, the defender saying that, while he was “gutted”, he could still hold his head high knowing he had given his all. The head coach said: “I had a conversation with Liam which will remain private, but it says a lot about the individual. If anything it makes our character even stronger. Things like this can pull you together.”
And Stubbs remains convinced Hibs can still enjoy a successful season with promotion having been the priority from day one. He said: “The cup competitions were always a bonus. Our main focus is still promotion although we still have a chance in the Scottish Cup and will give it our best shot. It still has the makings of a fantastic season for us and what has happened makes me want to get ther even more. It drives my ambition to get their and be successful. I desperately want to bring success to the club and, importantly, I really want to give the fans something to cheer about.”
Hibs, however, will go into tomorrow’s match again without the injured Fraser Fyvie, Dylan McGeouch, Paul Hanlon and Dan Carmichae,l although Stubbs holds out hope that Fyvie might make Saturday’s Championship clash away to Raith Rovers.