It was refreshing to see a different kind of performance against Rangers and still come up trumps in our third consecutive win over the Ibrox men this season.
This might turn out to be our most significant after finally leapfrogging them in the table. Let’s hope we are there to stay.
Defensively, we were excellent. Liam Fontaine and Paul Hanlon rarely lost an aerial tussle and, in David Gray, we have one of the most astute performers in the division. His energy up and down the right side is infectious, as he offers so much going forward as well as sticking to his defensive duties.
Our midfielders always looked the more equipped to make the killer pass, while the home side’s lack of quality in the final third really told. Kris Boyd looks a shadow of the player he was last season for Kilmarnock and Kenny Miller was forced off with an injury early on.
Rangers, for all their possession, never created any real clear-cut chances and I always felt we were capable of adding to our lead on the counter. I was delighted for wee Lewis Stevenson to seal the victory but what our left wing-back was doing in such an advanced position so late on I’ll never know!
Nevertheless it was a terrific finish and he certainly enjoyed celebrating in front of the Hibs supporters.
The progress under Alan Stubbs’ stewardship could not have been more apparent in the match-day squad picked to face Rangers. I don’t envy the manager having to select his starting XI at the moment. A look along the substitutes’ bench underlined the strength in depth we have gathered over the course of the season. The introduction of Fraser Fyvie, Martin Boyle and Franck Dja Djedje gave us a freshness that every successful side needs.
The manager has been shrewd with his transfer activity in recruiting some who had maybe lost their way a little but has given them the confidence to go and express themselves.
The optimism circulating the club now bodes well for the run-in in both league and Scottish Cup. The momentum we have gathered is excellent – just one defeat in our last 18 league matches. We are the form team in the Championship, Hearts aside, and this is something the players should be extremely proud of. There is still a long way to go, but we are certainly in good shape heading into the business end of the season. The combination of playing good football and winning is what every manager strives for.
With just 12 league matches to play, we have a favourable run-in and I would like to think we will be in a position to wrap up a play-off spot as soon as possible. With Rangers having three games in hand, it is conceivable they will reclaim second spot before the season is out. But I still have every faith we will finish ahead of the Glasgow club and take that runners-up spot behind champions and city rivals Hearts.
On the Scottish Cup front, dare we dream of a semi-final Hampden date after last Monday’s draw paired us with the lowest-ranked teams left in the competition? Both Berwick Rangers and Spartans not only have the incentive of coming to Easter Road in the last eight, but the clash will also now take place on a Sunday to accommodate Sky TV. I really would love to be able to say it will be the Lowland League side we will face in the next round, but I can’t help feeling Berwick will prove too strong on their own patch in tomorrow night’s replay.