SUCCESSIVE away wins in the past week against the two toughest Ladbrokes Championship teams outside of Ibrox should provide perfect preparation for an Easter Road meeting with Rangers that could go a long way to defining Hibernian’s season.
After losing the opening two fixtures, Alan Stubbs’ side have now won seven of their last eight games in the league, while also dumping previously undefeated Aberdeen out of the League Cup.
An eight-point gap remains, but the run of form does lend credence to Hibs’ insistence that they are still very much alive in this title race.
The latest victims were Raith Rovers, though there’s no doubt Hibs rode their luck at times against a team who went into the match with a 100 per cent home record this campaign.
After 60 minutes the visitors were completely comfortable, having built up a 2-0 lead thanks to a thunderous effort by John McGinn and a confident Jason Cummings finish.
Jon Daly’s strike brought Raith back into the game and the hosts almost found themselves level when Daly’s close-range overhead kick was diverted from goal by the arm of Paul Hanlon.
It may not have been as comfortable as he would have wished but, as he tends to do, Stubbs instead focused on the positives as his side again showed the resilience required to win. Something they’ll have to show a lot of when the league leaders come to town next Sunday. It is a game which has been a long time coming for the club as they look to showcase title-winning capabilities.
“The most important thing from our point of view is that, yes people have been speaking about the game, but there wouldn’t have been a topic of conversation if we hadn’t done what we’d done,” said Stubbs. “The players deserve the credit for that. We’ve now given ourselves a platform to have a go at Rangers next week. I’m much more happy that we’re going into this game the way we are now compared to what it potentially could have been.”
To win matches of such magnitude, a piece of individual brilliance can go a long way. And even if Hibs failed to see the game out in a manner they would have liked, the victory against Raith at least highlighted the match-winning quality of certain players, particularly McGinn who unleashed an unstoppable effort in the fourth minute to put his side on the road to victory.
Cummings did well to control a 70-yard pass before chipping the goalkeeper for what proved to be the winning goal, but even the striker conceded McGinn’s effort had been the highlight of the day, though he did so in typically cocky Cummings fashion.
“Unbelievable strike. He’s been watching me in training,” joked the striker before adding: “He has been different class for us this season. I played with him at Scotland Under-21s and a few games here, so we’ve started to build a good understanding and we’ve got a good relationship on the park. He seems to see my runs quite a lot so I like playing with John.
“We’ve won a couple of hard games going into a big game next Sunday and winning these hard games sets us up nicely. We’ve no fear at all. We’re really confident and we’re going to go and try to get the result. There’s not much between us. We’re looking to pile the pressure on them. Obviously we have to try to put a bit more pressure on them to catch them in the table. It’ll be a great occasion.”