Michael Weir: Hibs’ key players must turn up

Scott Allan has tormented Rangers already this season. Pic: Gordon Fraser
Scott Allan has tormented Rangers already this season. Pic: Gordon Fraser
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The time has come for all the talking to stop as we travel to Ibrox tonight for the first leg of the Premiership play-off.

To be in this position at such a late stage of the season is testament to Alan Stubbs and his players given our poor start to life in the Championship. Going up as league winners was always going to be a big ask due to the relentless form of our city rivals and worthy champions, Hearts.

We now go head to head against a buoyant Rangers side that will be desperate to build up a lead ahead of the return leg at Easter Road this weekend. However, we have little to fear when you consider our performances in Glasgow this season. Nothing is settled on the night, so remaining in the tie is what the manager will be stressing to his players in the dressing room beforehand.

These fixtures are sure to test the group both physically and mentally, but we now have the opportunity to earn promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking. Although Motherwell’s fate was sealed at the weekend where they now await the winners from this tie, I anticipate both Alan Stubbs and Stuart McCall will be stressing to their players to remain 
focused on the job in hand.

I expect the squad will be raring to go tonight after a small break in the Spanish sunshine and will be looking forward to the clash with the Glasgow outfit with a good deal of confidence.

With so much at stake, it is essential your best players step up to the plate and influence proceedings in every way possible. Scott Allan not only has the ability to slow the pace of the game down, but also carries a huge threat going forward and has shown time again against Rangers this season just why he was voted the Championship’s Player of the Year.

Our opponents appear to have enjoyed more of an attacking threat in recent times, but still look rather fragile in defence. This is why the 
manager needs to find the right balance in his starting line-up. Alan Stubbs has got it tactically spot on this season in our previous jaunts to Ibrox and this bodes well for our chances this evening.

That said, I have to admit to having some concerns over the time elapsed since we played our last competitive fixture against Falkirk 18 days ago.

I believe the first leg of the Rangers-Queens tie should have been played a couple of days after the last round of league fixtures on May 2 with the return leg just a couple of days later and this is something the SPFL will have to reconsider for next season.

The club opted to take the players abroad ahead of 
tonight’s match, but, in my 
experience, you only really find out if it was the correct decision once the game gets under way. Although some might feel such an extended break can give the players time to recuperate after a long and demanding season, this is not always the case. You can 
lose that competitive edge 
very quickly in football. But if the players show the same belief they have shown for the vast majority of the campaign then I see no reason why we can’t build up a lead ahead of the return leg at Easter Road.

Despite the defeat to the Bairns in last month’s Scottish Cup semi-final, I think we have seen the feelgood factor return to the club. There appears to be a really good spirit among the squad which is always an added bonus. If we can come away with a positive result tonight, I anticipate Easter Road being packed to the rafters come Saturday lunchtime.

The players have worked tirelessly to get themselves into this position, so let’s just hope the big stage doesn’t restrict them from expressing what good football pros they are.

Nerves are bound to play a part in some way, but if we can dictate the flow of the game, there is no doubt we possess enough quality to seal our place in the final.