Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today claimed the hours of hard work put in on the training ground paid off as his defence shut out Hearts’ second-half onslaught to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
The Easter Road side clocked up their eighth 1-0 win of the season and their 16th clean sheet, Jason Cummings’ fourth-minute strike clinching victory in the fifth round replay, the 20-year-old scoring for the fourth derby in succession – the first Hibs player to do so since Alex Cropley in the early 1970s.
But, as important as Cummings’ 20th goal of the season was, Stubbs hailed his team’s defensive resilience and was equally delighted with a first-half display which could have resulted in a bigger half-time advantage.
The head coach said: “I thought at times in the first half we were very good. Some of our play was really intelligent. It felt brisk and had real purpose to it.
“We have done that against a really good Hearts team which was no easy feat. Sometimes people don’t like you saying too much about your rivals, but I have no problem doing so. They are a good team and that’s why they are doing so well in the league.
“We knew there would be periods when we were going to have to defend but we gave ourselves something to hold on to.
“I don’t think they put us so much under pressure by playing through us but by putting balls on top of us. There were a couple of good balls across the face of goal but that’s where your understanding and hard work comes in to play.”
Hearts twice had the ball in the net, through Abiola Dauda in the first half and Juanma in the second only to have their effort ruled offside, but Stubbs insisted that wasn’t simply down to chance.
He said: “When you hold a good defensive line people stray offside. You work on that week in, week out. The line was good, that’s why they crept offside. You only need a lapse of concentration, someone to drop half a yard too early – that can make all the difference.
“But I thought we defended really well, not that I am surprised but I also thought some of our attacking play in the first half was excellent.”
And a crowd approaching 20,000, Stubbs claimed, underlined the potential at Easter Road. He said: “I think all it does for everybody is reinforces what we already knew and think, this is a big club. It was the first opportunity for a lot of us to actually witness a full house, a terrific atmosphere and the potential this club has.”
However, Hibs have been playing in front of crowds barely half that size for most of the season – although other than Rangers none of their Championship opponents will bring the same number of fans as Hearts did to Easter Road – and Stubbs hopes the continuing success of his players will tempt more to come along.
He said: “I don’t think you get full houses against your local rivals if the fans don’t believe it as well. It’s been a happy place for a while, but it is always good when you have got a victory against your local rivals.”
Meanwhile, the SPFL has confirmed that Hibs’ home Championship clash against Rangers will now take place on either Tuesday, April 19 or Wednesday, April 20 after both teams reached the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The actual date will be confirmed when the Cup semi-final line-up is known.