ALAN Stubbs has accepted that, while second place in the Championship is his current target for Hibernian, the principal aim has to be simply getting into the play-offs.
Hibs are precariously placed in third, just a point ahead of Queen of the South, three clear of fifth-placed Falkirk and eight behind Rangers. A Hearts win at Ibrox tonight would appear to be the most advantageous result for Stubbs and his club, but the manager refused to be drawn on his preference, pointing out instead that no result would be of direct benefit to Hibs if they fail to pick up points against Cowdenbeath tomorrow.
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“I’m not going to tell you what I want the result to be – but it doesn’t affect us,” Stubbs said yesterday. “I know it’s a boring answer, but we’ve just got to control what we can control. If teams drop points around us then great, but I’m more concerned about us not dropping points than what happens to other teams.
“The result at Ibrox will take care of itself. I’ll be at the game and I’m sure it will be a good game and, whatever the result is after 90 minutes, doesn’t affect what we’re going to do on Saturday.
“We’re trying to cement a play-off place. Ideally, we would like that to be second, but if it’s third or fourth we’ll take that. That’s the most important thing and that’s all that matters to us. As long as we’re in one of those places come the end of the season then we’ll take the next step, and that will be the play-offs and we’ll proceed from there.”
While a team could finish well off the pace in fourth place and yet still win promotion in the end, Stubbs added that second place was ideal not only because of the morale boost it would give a squad, but also because it means two fewer play-off matches. “Whoever we play, we know it’s going to be a tough game over two legs. But I think, if you asked managers to play two fewer games before you get into the final play-off, I would personally like that.
“Some managers might say ‘I would like to play an extra two games because if you win them it keeps building confidence’. But I’d like my players to be fresh going into the games.”
Stubbs has already recruited two forwards since the transfer window opened, bringing in Martin Boyle on loan from Dundee and signing Franck Dja Djedje on an 18-month deal. His priorities now are to sign another defender and a back-up goalkeeper, but he will not be unduly concerned if he fails to strengthen in either area this month.
“I think we’re just seeing what’s available, really, and taking it from there. It can not necessarily be a good window to bring players in, and I’ve said all along I won’t just bring players in for the sake of it. They’ve got to be right and if they’re not right I wouldn’t bring anybody in.
“So, we’ve already done a bit of business early on, which I’m really happy with, but we are looking to bring in another defender. But, at this moment in time, the right one hasn’t fitted the criteria we’re looking for.
“I’m just looking to strengthen areas wherever we can in the team and obviously I would like to bring in another keeper.
“But as I said, sometimes the January window can not necessarily be a great window to bring players in. If there’s nothing else happening from now until the end of the month then so be it.”
Versatile defender Jordon Forster has returned to training after his recent appendix operation, and that should further decrease the sense of urgency about getting another back-four player. “We’ve got Jordon back in training with us today full-time,” Stubbs added. “From that point of view, I’ve no problem if we don’t do any business from now to the end of the window.”