ALAN Stubbs had a side-swipe at those who have cast doubt on his team’s backbone after the show of strength that allowed his Hibernian side to cruise into the play-offs at the desired semi-final entry point yesterday.
A disciplined and emphatic 3-0 victory away to Falkirk secured the runners-up position in the Championship that means it will be two and a half weeks before Hibs next take to the pitch, when they will then face either Rangers or Queen of the South.
Asked if he felt that his team had shown “bottle” through the efficient manner they dealt with yesterday’s high-stakes assignment, Stubbs countered: “Bottle is a funny thing, isn’t it? I’m surprised sometimes when people can question our bottle. No one was questioning our bottle when we’d lost just one game in 27. Suddenly we lost one or two and people began to question it, but that’s good because it just makes my players more determined.
“When you work with them day in and day out, I know how good they are and I know how strong they are. They are young, very intelligent and they will get better. When you’ve got good players you are confident. More importantly I trust them to the hilt. I trust them to get on the ball, take it in difficult circumstances. I was excited before the game, I wasn’t nervous and I said that to the players. You can only get that when you have good players.
“I thought we were really good today. There was a lot of pressure on the players and they responded magnificently. We knew if we got a result it was irrelevant what happened elsewhere. To score so early settled us down but after that we were very good throughout the game.
“I thought the players were fantastic and we have eighteen days now to prepare them for the game against Queen of the South or Rangers. We’re going to use that time to the best of our advantage and prepare the players for the winners of that.”
Falkirk manager Peter Houston, who effectively conceded his players had switched off and were mentally saving themselves for the Scottish Cup final, raised the thorny topic of “bottle” when asked who he thought would make it to the play-off final against, in all likelihood, Motherwell.
“I don’t think Queens have the squad to cope with the play-offs if they get a couple of injuries or suspensions,” he said. “Rangers are a big club and are starting to get things together even though they have not done too well this season.
“Hibs are the best football team in the play-offs but it is not just down to that. It will come down to bottle and who can handle it better. Rangers have a big club mentality and have the players to cope but, football wise, I would say Hibs.”