Alan Stubbs today claimed the heat is on Rangers in the race for second place in the Championship – because everyone expected the Ibrox club to take the title.
While Hibs currently occupy that spot – their third-successive league win over the troubled Glasgow outfit putting them two points ahead – Stubbs has already insisted he’d rather be in Rangers’ position of having three games in hand.
Clearly there is nothing the Capital club can do to prevent the Ibrox club winning those matches, the simple arithmetic, Stubbs insisted, taking all the pressure off his players.
But, while insisting he wasn’t playing mind games with Rangers, Stubbs agreed that Hibs, defeated just once in their last 18 league matches, have momentum, something the Glasgow side appear to have lost having been beaten in six of their last ten games.
Pointing out that play-off place rivals Queen of the South and Falkirk have also been enjoying positive results of late, the Hibs head coach said: “The pressure is now on Rangers as everybody expected them to finish first in the league. There is every chance they will potentially finish second if they win their games in hand, so there’s no pressure on us. That’s not me playing mind games with Rangers, that’s the facts.”
The only pressure being exerted on his players, Stubbs insisted, was that they put on themselves to keep winning while not worrying about the results of any other club. He said: “We want to improve as a team and a club. If teams around us drop points, then great.
“As long as we keep focusing on our own pressure to win games then that is irrelevant because if we keep winning we know we are going to finish in the places that we set out to do at the start of the season.
“We have momentum but Queen of the South have also kept going and they have had a real consistency to their results. They’ve not lost four or five, but they have lost one and then bounced back very quickly. Falkirk have had a good run, maybe drawn a couple of games. Rangers have lost six out of their last ten matches.
“As teams in amongst it everybody has had blips – but one team as not. Hearts have had one blip all season and that is what has made it more difficult for everybody else. You have to take your hat off to them for being so consistent, otherwise I still maintain it would have been between any one of three teams.”
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Hibs striker Lewis Allan, who only agreed a new deal tying him to the club until the summer of 2018 a few days ago, has joined Dunfermline on loan until the end of March. Stubbs said: “It’s a good move – it’s the right fit for him at this moment. It will be great for him to be able to experience first-team football on a more regular basis at a club pushing for promotion.
“It will be a big step forward for Lewis in his development.”