Alan Stubbs admitted that this week’s revelation that whoever finishes second in the Championship will have a break of 18 days between their final league fixture and their first play-off match was “not exactly ideal”.
Second-place Hibs complete their campaign with a trip to Falkirk this Saturday, while Rangers, a point behind the Easter Road side, visit champions Hearts.
Original indications were that the first leg of the play-off semi-final would take place a fortnight after this weekend’s matches and Hibs and Rangers had been making tentative plans behind the scenes for every eventuality. One of these included a potential trip abroad for the Hibs players if they were to finish second.
However, Hibs were surprised to learn on Wednesday, when the play-off dates were officially confirmed by the SPFL, that the second-placed side will now have to plan for two-and-a-half weeks without a match. With BT Sport screening all six play-off ties, the first leg of the semi-final will be played on Wednesday, May 20.
“Without taking anything for granted, we were working on the basis of the original dates we were told, which would have meant two weeks before our first game if we were to finish second,” Hibs head coach Stubbs told the Evening News. “Now, suddenly, it’s been changed to 18 days and it alters our thinking in terms of plans we were trying to make. It’s not exactly ideal, but as we’ve learnt over the last few weeks, you have to be very flexible.”
The SPFL’s controversial short-notice decision to move Hearts’ final home game to this Sunday was successfully challenged. Stubbs said there has been no dialogue between the SPFL and his club with regard to the play-off scheduling. “They haven’t discussed it with ourselves,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to change it even if we did approach them about it because they’ve gone with the dates for television.”
Stubbs admits it remains to be seen whether an 18-day break will prove to be advantageous for the second-place team, with whoever finishes third getting straight back into action on Saturday week.
“Whoever finishes second, I don’t think it will affect us that much,” he said. “Some people will say it’s too long without a game and others will say it’s good to have a break.”
With regard to the prospect of Hibs going abroad for a sunshine break if they do have a lengthy break to negotiate, Stubbs said: “We’re none the wiser about whether we’ll get away. We just want to focus on getting the result we need on Saturday and if we do have the opportunity to get away we’ll look to do something. It’s not a guarantee. It’s just something that we’ve spoken about.”
Keith Watson could return to training tomorrow. The on-loan Dundee United defender has missed Hibs’ last four league games with a hamstring injury, but is ready to start rebuilding his fitness for the play-offs.