Alan Stubbs: Defeat makes Hibs’ title bid harder

Hibernian's Liam Fontaine (right) challenges Denny Johnstone during Morton's 3-0 win at Easter Road. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
Hibernian's Liam Fontaine (right) challenges Denny Johnstone during Morton's 3-0 win at Easter Road. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
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Alan Stubbs admitted Hibs made it “a little bit harder for ourselves” when they fell to a surprise heavy home defeat to Morton.

The 3-0 loss leaves Stubbs’ side trailing Rangers by eight points, having now played the same number of games as the Ladbrokes Championship leaders.

But Stubbs refused to be too critical of his players after only their second defeat in 29 matches.

He denied that he had become too inclined to make alterations to the starting XI, having made a further seven changes after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Alloa.

“The changes I made have been predominantly playing all season,” he said, with reference to last night’s strong line-up.

“The team that was out there was strong enough to get a result.”

Jason Cummings, Hibs’ top goalscorer, missed an open goal in the first half.

Then Thomas O’Ware’s 35th-minute header and second-half goals from striker Denny Johnstone and midfielder Ross Forbes sealed the points for the visitors, who jump to fifth in the league, just a point off the promotion play-off places.

Stubbs was phlegmatic about what the defeat meant for Hibs’ title chances.

“It might be, it might not be,” he said, when asked if the result represented the end of his side’s automatic promotion hopes.

“We have been eight points behind before, but with less games to go it does make it harder. I am not going to deny that.

“Obviously it is a blip for us,” he continued. “I can’t criticise the players too much. I have not been in this position a lot of times this season. We go again on Saturday [against Dumbarton).

“When you are on top you have to take your chances – for 20 minutes at most that was the case. We gave two poor goals away. But all credit to Morton.

“I don’t want to say we played poorly – when they got their chances they took them. No complaints.”

Jim Duffy, the former Hibs manager, delighted in such a successful return to the club where he endured a troubled spell in charge in the late 1990s.

“Someone was telling me it’s the first time Hibs have lost a league game at home for nearly a year,” he said.

“So to do it so comprehensively I think says a lot about us.

“Hopefully, we get the credit and it’s not about Hibs! They had a few chances early on – I am not sure how they missed one of them.

“But we got a way with it. From there on in we played really well, and I can’t remember our keeper having a safe to make after that,” added Duffy.

“The goals we scored were terrific goals at any level of football.”