Hibs boss Alan Stubbs has praised the single-minded attitude of his players as they shut out all talk of Sunday’s showdown with Rangers to come through a testing schedule of three games in eight days with a maximum nine points.
Stubbs admitted it would have been easy for the younger members of his squad to take their eyes off the ball as the visit of the Championship leaders loomed ever closer.
But, after dumping Dumbarton, they went to Falkirk and then Raith Rovers – the two sides closest to them in the table, both boasting unbeaten home records – and won to extend their unbeaten run to ten matches.
The Easter Road head coach said: “The biggest thing was going to be concentration. But there is a desire not to be beaten, a determination among the squad to do as well as we can and I think that has been helped by the competition for places in the team.
“We have not been conscious of it, but we have literally been taking each game as it comes. We couldn’t afford to talk about this game because it wasn’t all about Rangers. For me, the other games were more important because there was no point talking about a game that was in four or five games time.
“We’ve dealt with the game immediately in front of us and I think we have done that very well.”
After suffering a mauling against Rangers in the Petrofac Training Cup on the opening day of the season, Hibs lost by a single goal at Ibrox. However, since that day in August, Stubbs has, finally, a fully-fit squad at his disposal. He said: “From the health of the squad, I think we are in a stronger position.
“Whether we are in a better position, I would have to answer around 2.15 on Sunday. But I am very happy and content with how we are going into the game although I am sure Rangers will be feeling exactly the same because of their results.
“We’ve got two teams in form. I don’t imagine they’ll fear us and we certainly don’t fear them.”
Hibs, of course, have become used to teams pitching up at Easter Road intent on escaping with a point but that, he admitted, won’t be the case this weekend. He said: “I wouldn’t expect Rangers to have ten men behind the ball.
“It’s easy to say we are concentrating on ourselves and to a certain extent you do, but I don’t believe any manager honestly thinks that. We will be very conscious of Rangers’ strengths but also their weaknesses while they’ll feel they can so some damage to us. There will be the opportunity for both teams to play and express themselves.”