Alan Stubbs has told Rangers they cannot ignore his Hibernian side now – not that he believes they ever did.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton has consistently stated that he is not concerned with other clubs in the Ladbrokes Championship and is only focused on his team.
But Hibs have closed an 11-point gap ahead of their trip to Ibrox on Monday and Stubbs has told Warburton they are not going to shake their challenge off.
“The noises that are coming out (of Ibrox) are slightly different now,” the Hibs head coach said. “I think that tells you something.
“If they weren’t thinking about us a month ago, I think their mindset has changed and they are certainly thinking about us now.
“You can deny it all you like but we have been there, we have stayed there, and we weren’t going away. And we’re not going to go away, whether you like it or not.
“You can deny it all you want but our intention was to stay there and try and put as much pressure as we can on Rangers.”
Stubbs, whose side have won 15 and drawn two of their last 17 games in all competitions, added: “Let’s be honest, I don’t think they ever ignored us. They told everyone they were but I don’t think they did.
“Sometimes you say things but players look at tables, they look at our results, and they know our form is very good. They knew where we were. There’s only so many times you can keep denying it.”
While Hibs have been relentless in their pursuit of top spot, Rangers have stuttered in recent weeks, dropping 10 points in their last six games, which have included defeats to Hibs and Falkirk.
“I still think both teams have shown big-game mentality,” Stubbs said.
“Rangers have had a few results recently which haven’t gone according to plan. But I would say, rather than Rangers dropping points, I think a bit of credit has to go to us because we have been gaining momentum and picking up maximum points.
“And when you do that, are you trying to tell me that when you finish a game at 4.50 on a Saturday, that you don’t look at other results?”
Stubbs added: “We’re excited about the proposition of going to Ibrox and so we should be. Through all the talk and the hullabaloo, it’s two good teams, two teams that play football, and I’m expecting a fierce battle.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs refused to comment directly on reports linking his side with a move for Kilmarnock’s 18-year-old winger Greg Kiltie, whose contract expires in January.
“We have been linked with a few names over the last couple of weeks and it’s wrong to speculate,” he said.
“But we are going to do business and we are quite a bit down the line with a couple and we want to do it very early.”