Cup ties '˜have blown Hibs' title bid off course'

Darren McGregor has admitted Hibernian's upcoming cup matches may have been playing on the minds of Alan Stubbs' players as the Easter Road side crashed to back-to-back defeats for the first time.

Defender Darren McGregor and manager Alan Stubbs help to promote a health initiative that is urging Hibs supporters to pick up free pedometers on match days and then try to walk 500 miles. Picture: SNS
Defender Darren McGregor and manager Alan Stubbs help to promote a health initiative that is urging Hibs supporters to pick up free pedometers on match days and then try to walk 500 miles. Picture: SNS

But he insisted he and his team-mates can shake off the disappointment of losing to Morton and Dumbarton, setbacks which have all but ended the Edinburgh club’s Championship title hopes, and return to winning ways against Queen of the South tonight.

The trip to Palmerston Park precedes this weekend’s Scottish Cup quarter-final with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with the League Cup final against Ross County to follow seven days later, two matches which have to an extent overshadowed everything.

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McGregor, though, was quick to dismiss the setbacks in Greenock and Dumbarton as nothing more than a bad week for Stubbs’ side although, he conceded, shipping six goals in the course of those games wasn’t exactly great for confidence.

“They were two games we wanted to win and we haven’t won but there’s no point in dwelling on it,” he said. “There are massive games to come and still a big portion of the season to go as well.

“You put it to bed, you dust yourself down and then you go again, that’s what we’ve been told by the gaffer.”

Prior to these recent disappointments Stubbs’ players had only tasted defeat once in their previous 28 games. Eyeing tonight’s match as an opportunity to right the recent wrongs, former Cowdenbeath, St Mirren and Rangers defender McGregor said: “Two games, two defeats, that’s not really happened to us this season, so it’s about character-building for us, and I believe we’ve got the right characters in the dressing room to go on another run.

“I think the confidence does naturally take a knock when you concede three goals for two games on the bounce.

“But the measure of a good team and good individual players is how quickly you regather yourself and get that confidence back. I’ve got the belief we can do that.

“If you look at the goals we’ve lost its very uncharacteristic of us. Maybe there is an element of complacency going into games and maybe not doing things how we did them in the past. And expecting to turn up to games and win.

“We all know in football if you turn up to a game expecting to win, with an element of complacency, then you can be hurt. I think that’s been proven in the last couple of games.

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“It’s just about getting back to winning ways. We move on and with the games coming thick and fast, there’s no point in dwelling on a bad week.”

Head coach Stubbs admitted he’d been disappointed with the errors which had resulted in his side being left 11 points adrift of league leaders Rangers and McGregor agreed his manager had a point.

He said: “A portion is to do with individual mistakes – probably not getting behind the ball quickly enough and not doing things well that we had done well previously.

“In the Dumbarton game we had numerous chances but never really finished anything off – and then we were 

“It’s difficult and it’s hard to take but we’ve got a big week coming up.

“Queen of the South is a massive game and can put us back to where we want to be and then we’ve got two games 
after that, cup games that are really big and the boys are looking forward to them.”

Asked if he felt the prospect of two major cup matches in the space of a week had had a bearing on events, McGregor said: “You could look at it lots of different ways. With big games coming up you could say that maybe subconsciously we’ve been thinking about that.

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“The main thing is to get back to where we were before. So far this season, we’ve not really had a slump, so you could argue that this is our slump.”

Looking at the bigger picture, McGregor conceded, as Stubbs has, that winning the title and clinching the one automatic promotion place it carries was now a seemingly impossible task – but he insisted that as long as hope remains he’ll cling to it.

He said: “It’s difficult. If you’re looking at Rangers’ recent form, you would say ‘no’. But football’s a funny game – it’s a see-saw sometimes.

“Two weeks ago we were obviously on top of the mountain and then it changes very quickly. It’s all about getting back on the horse and going for it.”