Defiant Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today insisted the Easter Road side can still win the Championship title despite seeing their 17-match unbeaten run ended by Rangers at Ibrox.
The Capital club headed for Glasgow and the final game of 2015 hoping they would start the new year at the top of the table but, instead, they find themselves trailing Mark Warburton’s team by three points. Although disappointed to have gone down 4-2 having led by a Jason Cummings goal, Stubbs was adamant that’s a situation he’d happily have accepted long before a ball was kicked this season.
Two goals from ex-Hearts midfielder Jason Holt had Rangers ahead before half-time with substitute Nicky Clark making it three only for the home side to be reduced to ten men when Andy Halliday was sent off for barging into Fraser Fyvie.
Dominique Malonga scored for the second game in succession with four minutes remaining to give Hibs hope of another late, great escape but Martyn Waghorn added a fourth in the final minute to seal the win for the hosts.
Accepting his side could have done better to prevent Rangers scoring at least two of their goals, Stubbs congratulated Warburton’s side for having won but added: “We move on .. we are not going to be deflected. We have been fantastic, seventeen unbeaten. It was going to happen eventually but I can assure you it is not going to affect us. We have a really good dressing-room so there’s no reason for me to think anything untoward – I won’t let them anyway.”
Stubbs conceded his side should have done better at times, adding: “We have a few individual errors for goals but that’s not a criticism of those individuals because we are a team.”
And he rejected the suggestion that his comments in the build-up had played a part in its eventual outcome, saying: “If it takes my words to motivate a team then we all have problems. I thought we had a fantastic atmosphere, two good teams and you could see there was not an awful lot between them. The league shows that. There’s a long way to go, there’s still a lot of football to be played,
“We have literally just touched halfway and, had you given me this situation at the start of the season, I would have snapped your hand off.”
Stubbs, who believes Falkirk can make it a three-horse race for the title – the Bairns having the chance to haul themselves level with Hibs should they beat Livingston tonight – added: “Falkirk have done really well. I personally have never dismissed them because I know they are a team that stays in games. The fact we have three teams in the mix is great.”
Cummings’ goal was his seventh in two seasons against Rangers, another which is bound to raise the youngster’s profile yet higher. Stubbs, though, insisted it will take “an awful lot of money” to prise him away from Easter Road during the coming transfer window.
He said: “I think Jason has started to take his game to another level. I have worked with some really good players and he is getting close to making that real step-up.
“He will always score goals but his movement and game management is getting better.”
Stubbs knows interest in Cummings next month is inevitable but while adamant he wouldn’t discuss what sort of price might be on his head, he insisted: “I know what the market is and there’s not many able to afford him.
“He can play in the English Championship comfortably. He has potential and is starting to fulfil it and it will be up to Jason what he wants to be. In any transfer market, strikers always have a premium on their heads but, if the situation arises, it will take an awful lot of money. If, and it’s a big if, that day ever happens, it would take a lot of money and, if that is the case, then I would think we’d have money to spend.”