Alan Stubbs has called on his Hibs players to embrace the pressure as their two-pronged bid to win promotion and reach the Scottish Cup final enters its “crunch stage”.
The Easter Road side have spent much of the season playing catch-up in the Championship to the likes of Hearts, Rangers and Queen of the South, while they weren’t among the favourites when their Scottish Cup campaign kicked off in November.
However, a rousing run of form over the past six months has taken them five points clear of Rangers in the battle for second place in the league, while only Championship rivals Falkirk stand between them and a place in the cup final.
With expectation levels soaring as the season reaches its business end, Hibs’ head coach has urged his team to be inspired rather than inhibited by the battle for success.
“We’re at a stage of the season where everything takes on extra emphasis and it becomes even more important to get three points,” said Stubbs. “We’re going into the crunch stage, where any slip-ups have a bigger effect than they do earlier in the season. That brings an added pressure, but it’s a great type of pressure to have. This is the best bit about football – as a player, you want to be in this position. You don’t want to be down at the bottom of the table – that’s a horrible pressure and the players who were here last season know what that’s like. I’m sure every one of them will tell you that this is a far nicer pressure to have.”
Stubbs, who has everyone except striker Farid El Alagui available for today’s trip to Cowdenbeath, is confident his side have the mettle to sustain their challenge for second.
“We’ve done well over the past few weeks and months in terms of putting pressure on the teams directly below and above us and we’ve capitalised on our chances to do that by overtaking Rangers and moving into second.
“Earlier in the season, we probably didn’t grab those opportunities, but now we are. I wouldn’t say we’re in command of the race for second, but we’re certainly in a better position than we were a few weeks ago. We just need to stay focused and keep winning games.
“It doesn’t matter how you do it, when you get into March and April you’ve just got to get three points, simple as that.”